Šarec-led minority govt unable to take on structural reforms


The centre-left government was formed by Marjan Šarec, a novice in the national political arena, and his LMŠ party with the SocDems, Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) after the relative election winner Janez Janša and his right-wing Democrats (SDS) failed to put together a coalition.

A cooperation agreement with the opposition Left was an important component of the equation, but cracks soon appeared in the relationship with the far-left party, starting with Šarec's hiring of Damir Črnčec, a radical opponent of migration, as national security state secretary in his office.

While the Left managed to push through some of its agenda, mostly to improve the lives of low-income earners, it insisted that the bulk of the pledges made in the cooperation agreement were being ignored.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the coalition's rejection in the autumn of the Left's proposal for scrapping the voluntary top-up insurance system that several governments had attempted to do away with to no avail in the past.

While the Left withdrew from the partnership agreement at the start of November, the coalition pushed ahead with the healthcare funding reform.

The Left's bill was reshaped, but in a way that was not to the liking of Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj, who resigned earlier today. The resignation of Bertoncelj, who did not state a clear reason for his decision, was followed up immediately by PM Šarec's.

Šarec, who insists his resignation was not the result of the differences between Health Minister Aleš Šabeder and Bertoncelj, was also facing the search for a new defence minister, with Karl Erjavec announcing his resignation recently after failing to get reappointed DeSUS leader.

After losing the Left, the minority coalition had come to rely on the opposition National Party (SNS) in parliamentary voting, and the appointment of Development and Cohesion Minister Angelika Mlinar at the end of 2019 already proved a major challenge.

Cabinet staffing had also kept Šarec busy before that, with five ministers resigning before Erjavec and Bertoncelj.

Meanwhile, the need for structural reforms was raised by many during the government's term, but the coalition partners acknowledged on several occasions that adopting them would be difficult in a minority government situation.

On the other hand, the economic boom helped keep the government going, with record high budgets envisaged for 2020 and 2021.

The government managed to slightly tweak pension and tax legislation, while struggling somewhat with bills related to welfare.

It failed to implement Constitutional Court rulings requiring changes to electoral legislation and to funding rules for private primary schools.

The latter case, which has seen the government refuse putting state funding for private schools on a par with that for public schools, led to Šarec being subjected to an SDS and SNS-initiated impeachment vote at the start of 2019.

Šarec, who survived the vote, has recently also had to deal with accusations he help an acquaintance get a job at intelligence and security agency SOVA.

He said today that the LMŠ's 13 MPs and the current coalition did not suffice to meet people's expectations but that this could change with the early election.

The LMŠ remained in the lead in the latest Mediana agency poll commissioned by the private broadcaster POP TV. It gained two points compared to December to poll at 15.1% and the SDS added 1.4 points to 14.1%, showed the results, released on Sunday.

The SD and the Left were tied in third place at 7.2%, the centre-right opposition New Slovenia (NSi) ranked fifth at 6.2%, DeSUS got 4.1% in sixth, while all other parties fell well short of the 4% parliamentary threshold.