Dissent aroused as new party gets status affording it more air time

Ljubljana – The public broadcaster has invited protests by deciding to treat the party of Aleksandra Pivec, the former agriculture minister, as a parliamentary party in election debates arguing it is a legal successor to the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), the party Pivec used to head. The position disagrees with the view taken by the broadcaster’s legal service.

In arguing legal succession of Our Land to DeSUS, RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough notes that two current DeSUS deputies in the National Assembly who in the previous election stood on the same ticket as Pivec had joined her party, as did unaffiliated deputy Mateja Udovč, who was elected for the Modern centre Party (SMC).

As a further reason, the letter from RTV signed by Grah Whatmough notes that prior to the 2014 election the Alenka Bratušek Alliance, now SAB, was given status of a parliamentary party as a successor to part of Positive Slovenia, the party it had splintered off from, even though the latter party continued to exist.

The letter argues the situation is identical to the case of Our land and DeSUS now, adding that it is “absolutely necessary to treat the same circumstances equally” in order to prevent discrimination.

SAB dismissed the argument that its position in 2014 was identical to Our Land’s, as SAB at the time already had its own deputy group in parliament numbering 10 MPs and functioned as a parliamentary party after the MPs of Positive Slovenia split into two factions.

The RTV Slovenija’s legal service last week also declined Pivec’s request for her party to be granted status of a parliamentary party which also affords it more air time. The legal service also dismissed a similar request from Robert Golob’s Freedom Movement, who argued the status as two of its members are unaffiliated MPs.

The legal service found the conditions to be granted such a status were met solely by Connecting Slovenia, an alliance of five parties, including Concretely, the coalition party that is the legal successor of the SMC and has four MPs, as well as the People’s Party (SLS), a non-parliamentary party that has an MEP.

DeSUS protested against Our Land being declared their legal successor, wondering how the former party leader could appropriate succession to a party “whose public image she has damaged greatly through her conduct”. Pivec resigned as DeSUS leader in September 2020 and a month later as agriculture minister in the wake of an expenses scandal.

Ljubo Jasnič, the current leader of DeSUS, called the decision politically-motivated, declaring the party would use all legal means at its disposal to fight it.

Nataša Pirc Musar, a prominent jurist, says the argument that Pivec’s party is a legal successor to DeSUS is an argument unworthy of a legal expert. She argues succession is only possible to an entity that no longer exists. “This is not the case here, Aleksandra Pivec quit DeSUS and founded her own party,” she said.

Instead, she believes the only right criterion for granting the status of a parliamentary party would be to look at which of the new parties are represented by current MPs, “which means both the party of Aleksandra Pivec and that of Robert Golob should become parliamentary parties”.

Golob’s party said the public broadcaster should under law grant parties equal opportunities to get presented to the voters relative to their status, noting that its request for being granted the same status as Pivec’s party was denied. It said the decision showed the broadcaster subjugated itself to the interests of a political bloc to decide itself who it would face off in debates.