Centre-left opposition to table motion to impeach Janša

Photo: STA

Ljubljana – Four centre-left opposition parties have tabled a motion asking the National Assembly to impeach Prime Minister Janez Janša before the Constitutional Court, accusing him of violating several articles of the constitution and laws, pertaining to healthcare, media, prosecution and human and constitutional rights. Janša called the move pathetic.

In their motion, the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), the Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), accuse the government of having seized all the powers to manage the Covid-19 epidemic and of failing to order Slovenia’s share of Covid-19 vaccines in full. They also allege pressure on the media and prosecution.

The parties say the Health Ministry failed to order an additional, optional 900,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in December, presuming the cheaper AstraZeneca jabs would have become available in the meantime. AstraZeneca later supplied less than planned.

Addressing reporters with fellow party leaders in front of the parliament on Friday, the LMŠ head Marjan Šarec said the failure was in particular significant because “vaccination is what everyone recognizes as the most effective measure in the fight against the epidemic”.

The allegation of interference in the media focuses on the suspension of financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) for the public service, which is in contravention of the STA act and the 7th Covid relief law. Šarec said the point was “not about who showed a contract and who hasn’t but about the deliberate destruction of the STA”.

The government is also accused of breaking the legislation on prosecution by failing to appoint five out of ten prosecutor candidates put forward in the autumn and “dragging its feet” in the appointment of the selected candidates for European delegated prosecutors.

All those charges show “the government is eroding the foundations of democracy […] Based on ideology it is destroying basic human rights and constitutional rights,” SD leader Tanja Fajon said, offering the “spread of violence against women” as one example.

Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, highlighted the government’s attempt to bypass his party’s initiative for a referendum on a military investment act, asserting the government was trying daily to break the limits of power set by the constitution.

SAB leader Alenka Bratušek added that the health crisis had been compounded by a crisis of democratic values. “It’s more than obvious Janez Janša cannot govern in a crisis.”

One of the accusations levelled at the government is that it has put the constitutional right to clean drinking water at risk through controversial amendments to the water act.

Responding on his Twitter account, Janša called the motion yet another “pathetic move” aimed at destabilising the country during the epidemic, which he said followed the failed vote of no confidence in him, “media murders of coalition partners DeSUS and SMC, and a series of failed motions of no confidence”.

“The worse for Slovenia, the better for the parties SD, LMŠ and the Left,” Janša said.

In a separate post, he responded to Fajon’s calls for an end to violations, addressing them back to her: “We haven’t heard this clear self-criticism from Tanja Fajon or the SD party before. Will actions follow? A move out of the stolen Jewish villa? No more banishing media from their press conferences? No more bowing to mass murderers? No more intolerant declining of invitations from the president?”.

For the motion to succeed, it would have to be backed by at least 46 of the 90 deputies of the National Assembly. The legislature needs to decide on the proposal within 60 days or else it is considered rejected. If backed, the motion is then referred to the Constitutional Court.

Šarec said the motion was an opportunity for “each MP to take a stand”. The parties propose for President Borut Pahor to state his opinion on the motion as well.

He said the deputy group established by MPs who defected from the factions of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), a former coalition partner, did not sign on to the motion but they had not talked about their potential support in the vote.

In response, the head of the group, Janja Sluga, said the charges listed in the motion were “exactly” why they had left the SMC deputy group and coalition.

Danijel Krivec, the deputy group chair for Janša’s Democratic Party (SDS), rejected all points of the impeachment and said the motion was being used as “a tool to destabilise the government, for the battle for power, and for the creation of a political crisis.”

He argued Slovenia had one of the highest vaccination rates in the world as evident from international comparisons. He said that both Janša and the head of the Government Communications Office, Uroš Urbanija, were acting in accordance with all laws when it came to the STA, and rejected the notion the government was interfering with the prosecution.

Krivec also dismissed the notion that Janša was responsible for an unconstitutional ban on the military investments referendum, arguing that it was necessary to invest in the army as a matter of urgency for the well-being of all Slovenian citizens.

Its coalition partner New Slovenia (NSi) accused the opposition of “destructive and irresponsible conduct”. The opposition “appear to be willing to use all available means to add political instability to the aggravated epidemiological picture”, instead of joining forces in defeating the Covid crisis, said the NSi.

In a similar vein, Zmago Jelinčič, the leader of the National Party (SNS), said the motion showed the left opposition were “in a terrible panic, willing to ruin the country and homeland to regain former privileges.

The SMC and DeSUS are yet to take a stand.

This is the seventh impeachment motion to date, including one targeting a president. Most have been tabled by Janša’s SDS and none have so far been successful.