Four opposition parties file motion to oust culture minister

Ljubljana – The opposition Social Democrats (SD), Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) have filed an ouster motion against Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti. Talking to the press on Friday, opposition MPs listed a number of arguments, among them ineffective Covid crisis measures in the culture sector.

The opposition holds him accountable for refusing to pay pre-agreed funds to film makers, and believes he failed to uphold the principle of separation of church and state.

The latter refers to the fact that the ministry started paying social contributions for religious workers, the same it does for freelancers in the culture sector. Later, religious workers, who unlike culture workers do not pay taxes in Slovenia, were allowed even more benefits, Violeta Tomić of the Left said.

The ministry also stopped paying social contributions for rapper Zlatko, a vocal critic of the government, the opposition noted, also labelling eviction of NGOs from Metelkova centre as absurd.

The opposition holds Simoniti responsible for attacks on media freedom and independent journalism, especially at the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the press agency STA.

The opposition accuses Simoniti of trying to bend the culture sector according to the policy of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS).

The motion says that it suits the government and Simoniti to work outside institutional frameworks and without what they view as unnecessary long-term guidelines. “This is a great basis to impose one’s arbitrariness and lead a culture policy under the culture programme of the SDS.”

Culture policy under the current government has no vision but the view of party ideology, the opposition parties said in the motion, which also accuses Simoniti of employing destructive manoeuvres.

Instead of defending culture, he uses revenge, ostracising and execution against all fields of culture that are Enlightened, progressive, modernist and avant-garde in their nature, based in humanism and freedom, the motion says.

It adds that opposition parties and expert associations had given concrete proposals in the past to help alleviate the effects of the epidemic, while the minister and his team either denied the severity of the situation or proposed unrealistic solutions.

Tomić also accused him of cynicism, arrogance and hate toward artists and those who enjoy art. She believes that this motion to oust him is a “lovely gift to artists” and those who enjoy art coming virtually on the eve of Culture Day, observed on Monday.

Lidija Divjak Mirnik of the LMŠ labelled Simoniti uncultured minister, saying he has to go because he violates all social norms and the law, shows no respect for the National Assembly or those who think differently.

He favours a “policy of repression, punishment with explanations unworthy of a minister, and thinly-veiled arguments” over dialogue, said Divjak Mirnik.

Meanwhile, Marko Bandelli of the SAB said that the culture sector was left by the wayside in all eight legislative packages aiming to alleviate the consequences of the corona crisis.

SD deputy group head Matjaž Nemec also said the four parties counted on the support of the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), which recently left the coalition, and the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) for the motion to succeed.

This is the third no confidence filed in the past three weeks, coming on the heels of motions filed against Education Minister Simona Kustec and Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj.

Three other ministers have also faced ouster motions, with Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek surviving them, while Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec stepped down shortly before the vote in the National Assembly.