Pivec resigns as agriculture minister, also leaves DeSUS party
Ljubljana - Aleksandra Pivec stepped down as agriculture, forestry and food minister on Monday following her recent resignation as the leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). She resigned just a few hours before the National Assembly was to vote on her dismissal and after presenting her take on the fallout with DeSUS.
Addressing parliament, Pivec said she had been the target of an unprecedented smear campaign. "It's difficult to find a case in the history of independent Slovenia where a politician was brought down in such an orchestrated and demeaning way."
She stressed this was not the end of her political career but "only a challenge for a new beginning". Speaking to the press later on, she said she would take a short break to think things over. She is, however, not considering joining another party, forming her own or joining the prime minister's office.
Announcing her irrevocable resignation, Pivec told MPs she did not want to be judged by politicians who do not accept individuals who work to the benefit of the people.
According to Pivec, the taxpayers deserve to have an insight into the "games behind the scenes, where only private interests count, while the needs of the state and society are pushed aside".
She said MPs would dismiss her because she was giving priority to the actual problems of ordinary people, and worked with farmers, forest managers, fishermen, craftsmen, the elderly and other citizens.
She said she had not been guided by the interests of her party or political elites. "You expected more benefits for individuals in the party and other political elites from me. My opposing this was obviously seen as a mistake, but I think this should become a model for the functioning of any politician."
The outgoing minister said she had been working during weekends and holidays too, and that her "biggest sin" had obviously been the fact that she had devoted some time to her family during her work at the weekends.
"A few slices of pršut, a glass of Teran and our staying the night have become the biggest corruption scandal in Slovenia," she said in a reference to what is seen as her ethics transgressions related to her two official trips to the coast in the capacity of minister which led to a revolt against her within DeSUS.
"Let's be open here. It's my fight against corruption in Slovenian forests and revelations of thefts there that was one of the main reasons for my dismissal."
Before today's parliamentary debate on Pivec's dismissal virtually all parties announced they would vote for the dismissal, with the head of the opposition LMŠ and former PM Marjan Šarec saying Pivec would do everyone a favour by stepping down herself.
Pivec said the advocates of her dismissal were not interested in the achievements of her ministry such as increasing its budget to EUR 143 million, changes to the legislation on farm land or changes to the drawing of EU funds.
Jožef Horvat from the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said the NSi had no major objections to her work and that it regretted this debate was even taking place. Similarly, Zmago Jelinčič from the opposition National Party (SNS) said Slovenia had much bigger corruption problems than the Pivec case.
In contrast, Robert Pavšič from the LMŠ said Pivec had not only failed as politician but had completely neglected her tasks. Matej T. Vatovec from the Left said Pivec's actions and behaviour were the "symptom of all that is wrong with this government". He said she was the "symptom of political elites alienated from the people and of putting own interests before the interests of the community", the "symptom of politics which is defending its corruption and desire for power with all forces".
Although the prime minister has seven days to notify the speaker of a minister's resignation, PM Janez Janša already sent the note to the National Assembly today and the parliament already took note of the resignation, thus relieving Pivec of her duties.
The prime minister has now ten days to put forward a new candidate, temporarily give the post to another minister or take over at the ministry himself. Once a new candidate is announced, they must be presented to the relevant parliamentary body within seven days before parliaments votes on the candidate.
DeSUS has already announced it will put forward Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Jože Podgoršek, so the procedure is expected to be somewhat shorter.
Pivec resigned as DeSUS leader in early September, after only around eight months at the helm of the party, following a rebellion within DeSUS which was prompted by her two official trips to the Kras region and Izola. Today she also left the party and contrary to her earlier announcement, she will not stand for DeSUS leader at the congress in November.
DeSUS deputy group leader Franc Jurša said today Pivec's resignation had been expected yet had come a bit late. He expects some tough times for the party ahead of the congress, which he expects to elect a leader who will be willing to do everything for the party to enter parliament in the next election.