MPs reject referendum on changes to government bill

Ljubljana – The National Assembly rejected in a 52:23 vote on Tuesday the opposition Democrats'(SDS) proposal to consult voters in a referendum whether the government should restructure its departments and expand them or not.

The SDS opposes the plan to increase the number of ministries to 20 (19 ministries and the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad), arguing public spending will also increase.

The coalition, on the other hand, says the reorganisation will help the government to be more responsive and efficient to the benefit of the country.

By filing the changes to the government act, the coalition Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and the Left want to set up three new ministries – for a solidarity-based future; for higher education, science and innovation; and for climate and energy.

If the changes are passed, Slovenia will become a country with the largest number of ministers in the entire EU and even in Europe, SDS MP Branko Grims argued today.

He criticised the government for being unresponsive by failing to prevent the recent fuel shortages. He believes it will be even less operational with more ministries.

Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik responded by saying the reorganisation would enable the government to promptly act in areas important for citizens, especially the ones it has prioritised and which are future-oriented.

Left MP Nataša Sukič labelled the referendum proposal as “a cheap political show”, stressing the April election had been a referendum on what government the voters wanted. “That’s when the people voted for the new government to set up a structure that it believes can help it deliver what it has announced.”

New Slovenia (NSi), the other opposition party, did not contribute votes for the referendum proposal today.

MP Vida Čadonič Špelič said that although they were not in favour of more ministries, they would like the government to get down to business as soon as possible.

Now that the referendum is off the table, the parliamentary procedure for the changes to the government act can proceed. It will be on the agenda of an emergency session on Wednesday.

Commenting on the rejection of the referendum motion, Golob said in a statement for the media that he expected the MPs to adopt the changes in the coming weeks and then hold hearings of ministerial candidates.

Individual ministries will be reformed over the summer so that they could be “in full swing” in September, the prime minister added.

“Perhaps common sense has prevailed and some other consultative referendum will also be rejected,” Golob said, presumably in reference to to the motion for a consultative referendum on changes to the act on the public broadcaster, also filed by the SDS.