Slovenia’s leaders appeal for stability to take on epidemic

Ljubljana – There was a call for restoration of political stability in the face of the coronavirus crisis as President Borut Pahor hosted Prime Minister Janez Janša and the speakers of both houses of parliament for the annual meeting on Monday, which also focused on the electoral reform and preparations for Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

Addressing reporters after the meeting, Pahor said “cooperation is the only way to resolve the crisis faster and more successfully to the benefit of everyone”.

If someone believes they can offer an alternative, no one may prevent them, Pahor said, referring to the opposition-sponsored bid, now pushed ahead by Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec, to call a vote of no-confidence in the government.

If such an attempt succeeds, an alternative government would assume responsibility, if there is none, he suggested considering hammering a cooperation agreement to allow the government to successfully complete its battle against the virus with vaccination.

Asked about the reasons for political instability, Pahor said the government’s coping well with the first wave of coronavirus would have probably came as a surprise to those who disagreed with the government and they began looking for an alternative early on. The differences began to grow into divisions, showing first signs of a split in the autumn.

Igor Zorčič, the speaker of the National Assembly, agreed it was necessary to let the option be explored whether there was a new majority in the legislature, but said it should not be an escapade.

He doubts that some of fellow MPs from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) would defect to an alternative coalition. “We all want and promote political stability. I believe such a view also prevails among National Assembly deputies, so that everyone can establish what is a step toward a greater stability and what is an escapade.”

PM Janša noted that Slovenia was facing the final, third phase of the battle against the virus with warnings from the scientists advising the European Commission that the two months ahead would be harder than those behind.

“Even though we see the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccines already or yet to be approved in the coming weeks and months, it’s clear it won’t be possible to fully stop the spread of the variant of the virus we’ve been fighting so far by spring,” he said.

In the weeks and months ahead, apart from performing the vaccination and protecting the most vulnerable groups, all other existing measures would have to be combined, he said, even without the new risk in the form of a new strain of the virus from the alleged hotspot in the UK.

“This is a time that calls for stability much more than instability,” said Janša, agreeing with Pahor that the virus would be defeated, but there were still quite some laps where the success would depend on the ability to work together.

He said there had been reports of a planned vote of confidence since April, being repeated on a daily basis, “with virtually a public call for applications out to fill the post of prime minister-designate”.

When the SMC and DeSUS were prepared to form a bi-partisan coalition where parties see the past differently but are willing to work together for the common good for present and the future, they prevented what some want to do now, said Janša. He said this was a time of great risk where “we’ll all pay a high price”.

Janša urged those who thought they could form a stronger government in this situation and given the balance of power in parliament, to do it now, although he does not think there is such an intention, while there might be pressure to “muster 46 votes to bring down the government”, saying that at least two opposition parties favoured a snap election.

He concedes that it is formally legitimate to look for an alternative, “however, it is a far cry from legitimacy what is going on behind the scenes with pressure on MPs, information of vote buying, engaging what shouldn’t exist in a normal country”.

Calling a vote of no-confidence is not the government’s job, it is the right of those who think they can offer a better alternative in this parliament, Janša said when asked whether he would tie a vote of confidence to the appointment of a new health minister to replace DeSUS member Tomaž Gantar, or to the latest stimulus package. “If there were a better alternative, the sponge wouldn’t have been thrown in,” he said.

Alojz Kovšca, the speaker of the National Council, described the meeting as candid with determination to defeat coronavirus together, as well as with concern expressed about the new developments in the pandemic.

He said the leaders expressed their determination to work together to find new solutions, but added that while those in charge could see to the wherewithals, the solution to the health crisis began and ended with people. He thus urged everyone to abide by precautionary measures.