Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti survives no-confidence vote

Ljubljana – Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti survived on Thursday a vote of no-confidence mounted by the centre-left opposition over several grievances, including his inaction during the epidemic and attitude to the self-employed and public media. 43 MPs voted to oust him, three fewer than needed for dismissal.

The coalition was practically united in defending Simoniti’s work in the debate spanning over two days, arguing the motion was groundless and a “farce”.

Forty MPs from the coalition SDS, NSi and SMC and from the opposition SNS and one DeSUS MP voted in favour of Simoniti, while three SMC MPs voted for his dismissal.

Branislav Rajić and Janja Sluga, both Modern Centre Party (SMC), said they would vote for dismissal, while Speaker Igor Zorčič of the SMC also voted for ousting.

SMC deputy group leader Sluga, having been critical of Simoniti before, said no coalition agreement or threats to replace her could make her vote against the motion.

Violeta Tomić of the Left said the proponents of the vote hold Simoniti responsible for breaking the law, not honouring commitments, influencing the media, destroying the Slovenian cinematography and for having an unacceptable attitude towards the self-employed in culture.

She also thought that his hate speech towards cultural workers was enough to vote for his dismissal.

Simoniti said “everyone knows I work to the benefit of Slovenian culture”, while Tomić said cultural workers distancing themselves from this year’s celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Slovenian independence was telling enough.

Jerca Korče of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said the coalition was bothered by cultural workers being critical hence the attempts to silence them.

Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD) said the government was attacking the media in the style of Donald Trump or Viktor Orban.

Several opposition MPs said Simoniti did not protect the STA and RTV Slovenija, while Simoniti said that as minister he had nothing to do at the STA because “the STA falls under the jurisdiction of the Government Communication (UKOM)”.

Jure Ferjan of the ruling Democrats (SDS) pointed to what he said were the highlights of Simoniti’s office: a record EUR 238 million in budgetary funds for 2021, EUR 19 million in social security aid during the epidemic, and investments such as for SNG Drama theatre’s renovation and the founding of the Slovenian Independence Museum.

According to several SDS MPs, the opposition has forgotten how many things in culture it did wrong, while also criticising some artists’s protests against the minister.

Jožef Horvat of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) regretted the debate did not discuss culture “but a culture war against the minister who comes from the hated political groupings right of the centre”.

He said Simoniti was not involved in attacks on RTV Slovenija, efforts to abolish the Radio Student radio station, attempts to censor art institutions via the Embassy in Rome or when alternative culture centre Rog was being demolished.

The minister rejected all the accusations, stressing that he had been working for the good of culture and that this year’s budget for culture would be record high.

According to him, the privileged status of some individuals in Slovenian culture had been a self-evident right before this government took over.

He stressed the proponents of the motion had failed to present any proof that he had acted against the law or irresponsibly or against the interests of culture.