The Slovenia Times

Coalition Comedy Show: Candidate for Health Minister Gave Up



Šoltes, whose potential bid has been harshly criticised by the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD) because he has been preparing to launch a new party, announced his decision on Monday, asserting that some parties had demonstrated they were not capable or willing yet to go beyond narrow party interests.

Bratušek regretted his decision, telling reporters today that she wanted to nominate him because of his credibility as a candidate and because he enjoyed the support of the medical community.

She underscored his expertise in public procurement, a field that she said was the biggest problem in healthcare at the moment. "Unfortunately some people, even within our coalition, still consider it more important that you are one of us than that you know something," she said.

Šoltes described the post of health minister as a major challenge for everyone, arguing that the state lacked a strategy for development of the healthcare system, while the network of public healthcare was but the remnants of capacities established decades ago, expanded with private concession holders.

He argued that a comprehensive reform was needed in healthcare to establish a system that would be financially sustainable in the long term, but added that such a reform required the broadest possible social consensus, starting from politics, where he believes it should go beyond one party or coalition.

He sees PM Alenka Bratušek's invitation to him to discuss his potential bid as an indication of her desire to surpass the narrow partisan boundaries.

However, the "quite insulting" comments on the possibility of his becoming a candidate, persuaded him that a similar reaction could be expected by every candidate from "outside of the ruling particracy".

"Such an attitude shows clearly the coalition lacks unity over potential collaboration in the government outside of the quota system, which is an essential condition for a effective reform and an effective crackdown on corruption in healthcare."

While the leaders of the Citizens' List (DL) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) have welcomed Šoltes as an appropriate candidate for the job, SD leader Igor Lukšič described the proposal as in bad taste because of his plan to transform his I Believe association into a party.

DL leader Gregor Virant regretted that Šoltes will not take the job due to Lukšič's opposition. He said that he would have strengthened the government team and would also enjoy the medical community's support, a precious thing at the moment. "We've lost a good ministerial candidate over purely party calculations."

Speaking to reporters before Monday's meeting of coalition leaders, Lukšič said that by announcing his plan to form a party, Šoltes made it clear that he was not interested in this government. He argued that Šoltes did not identify himself with the platform of the coalition or the platforms of existing parties.

Lukšič also denied that by criticising Šoltes's potential candidacy, the SocDems demonstrated concern over loss of voters. "If people ascertained the difference between those who occupy themselves with daily popularity and those who work for the sake of the state, the country would probably be doing much better."

Lukšič insists that DeSUS should put forward its candidate for health minister first. DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec is standing in for the minister after Tomaž Gantar stepped down in November over lack of support to implement a health reform. Gantar was put forward by DeSUS.

DeSUS deputy group leader Franc Jurša, who attended the regular weekly meeting of coalition leaders in place of Erjavec today, agreed with Lukšič that Šoltes's chief interest was to promote his own party.

"He hasn't stood in elections yet and it's not hygienic if he entered the government in such a way and promote himself," Jurša said. Erjavec too had expected of Šoltes to abandon his plan to form a party if he became minister, which possibility Šoltes rejected.

DeSUS insists on keeping two ministerial posts, with some information suggesting the party was eyeing the post of minister without portfolio in charge of Slovenians abroad instead of the health department. Unofficially, former DeSUS MP Vasja Klavora is tipped for the post, but Jurša said talks were ongoing.

Erjavec indicated today that the party had a number of potential candidates for health ministers, but that the risk associated with the health portfolio needed to be assumed by the Positive Slovenia (PS) party of PM Bratušek given the differences in the coalition on the issue.

The coalition disagreements over health care make it impossible for DeSUS to promise that reform would be carried out, Erjavec told the press in Brussels. For this reason, DeSUS would only be willing to put forward a candidate if Bratušek assumes full responsibility for the appointment.

Šoltes enjoyed the support of the Medical Chamber and doctor Erik Brecelj, the most outspoken critic of the situation in healthcare. Brecelj regretted Šoltes's decision to withdraw today by saying that "uncles from behind the scenes" managed to bring down Šoltes's candidacy.

Brecelj sees the development as showing that healthcare is not the government's priority, so he expects the government to tell people that their rights to healthcare would be reduced. He was especially critical of the SD: "Even though their mouth is full of publicly accessible healthcare, such an attitude causes concern and leads to the system's collapse".


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