Ljubljana – Igor Zorčič remains speaker as only 45 MPs voted to dismiss him in a secret ballot Friday, one short of the needed majority, just like in the first attempt on 30 March after he quit the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC). Two ballots were invalid while no MP voted against as the centre-left opposition and unaffiliated MPs obstructed the vote.
The head of the deputy group of the ruling Democrats (SDS), Danijel Krivec, immediately announced that a third attempt would have to be mounted to replace Zorčič.
“If we want the National Assembly to work normally, we must have a speaker who is a speaker of all MPs, not just one group,” he said.
“Apparently the word somebody gives is not enough,” he said in reference to the coalition being one vote short while it said in early May it had 47 votes.
Krivec said it was still an option for Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek from the SMC to return to parliament to secure the 46th vote.
Nevertheless, he does not believe that the country is any closer to an early election or that it has a hung parliament, arguing relations had been unclear ever since the start of the term while several bills had been passed with a majority of over 50 votes this week.
Krivec said that Prime Minister Janez Janša could peg a vote of confidence to a third attempt to replace Zorčič or to any bill, but this was up to him to decide.
In his first statement after the vote, Zorčič said Janša pegging a confidence vote to his dismissal would be “a precedent because it would mean direct meddling of the executive with the legislative branch of power”.
Zorčič said that with today’s vote, the National Assembly “has proved once again that it is a sovereign institution”. He praised the two MPs who had cast invalid votes, saying they had countered the pressure from coalition MPs.
He believes it would be best to hold “an early election” because Slovenia is seen as a rather strange country in Brussels and Europe, but said it was hard to say whether the country was now any closer to an early election.
In today’s debate before the vote, coalition SDS, SMC and New Slovenia (NSi) MPs stressed it was customary for the speaker to come from the coalition and to resign if the situation changed as it had with Zorčič’s defection.
They also criticised Zorčič for what they said was his siding with the opposition lately instead of remaining neutral.
The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the group of unaffiliated MPs meanwhile defended the speaker, and then obstructed the vote.
They urged opposition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) and National Party (SNS) MPs, as well as both minority MPs not to back Zorčič’s dismissal.
Zorčič however said that the vote opened up an important issue of what the office of the speaker and the role of the very parliament would be in the future.
“Will it be a tool in the hands of the government and the prime minister, or will it be independent enough to decide for itself on this.”
He also said he carried out proceedings responsibly, being aware of the significance of the National Assembly for Slovenia.
Zorčič warned that his dismissal could well mean that the minority coalition would not be able to muster enough votes to appoint a new speaker.
Following the vote, SMC deputy group leader Gregor Perič said that the outcome would have been “considerably different if there had been no obstruction”.
He said the opposition had resorted to obstruction to control its MPs: “This is disciplining, this is control and it is definitely not something good for the National Assembly because it deprives MPs of the possibility, right and duty to state their opinion on such important matters.”