Vizjak remains environment minister

Ljubljana – Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak stays on after a motion to oust him failed in parliament in the early morning hours on Saturday. A total of 43 MPs voted for his ousting, three short of the required majority, while 29 were against.

The no-confidence vote was backed by its initiators the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left, Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the deputy group of unaffiliated MPs.

MPs from the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), who said before the vote they did not support Vizjak, and the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) abstained, while 29 MPs from the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) and junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) backed the minister.

MPs from the opposition National Party (SNS) and the two minority MPs were not present during the vote, which was held after 14 hours of debate.

The initiators of the vote were arguing Vizjak had been violating the constitution and laws with many of his actions, and were also critical of some of his personal traits.

Their main argument for Vizjak’s dismissal was a leaked tape of a 2007 conversation between Vizjak, economy minister at the time, and Terme Čatež spa boss Bojan Petan amid what was a fight over the takeover of Terme Čatež between the state and companies associated with Petan in which Vizjak offered Petan a gentleman’s agreement involving several controversial segments.

Vizjak repeated several times that the recording was a collage compiled from illegal recordings of a private conversation. He maintained he had only been safeguarding public interest.

Another major topic was the waters act that was blocked in a referendum in July. “He is constantly proving to be a threat to the environment, that he is a minister against the environment, against drinking water,” said Brane Golubović (LMŠ).

Vizjak said he had never been driven by greed for money or personal interests, especially not with the waters act “for which I genuinely believed and still believe it is good and useful”.

He said he had considered resigning, but decided to stay “because I want to finish some projects”. He pointed to the environment protection bill that is in the parliamentary procedure.

SDS MPs highlighted Vizjak’s achievements related to water supply, sewage systems and anti-flooding measures.

NSi MPs said the conversation with Petan was a too serious scandal for a minister. Although MP Iva Dimic expressed doubt in Vizjak’s credibility as minister, the party did not vote for his ousting but abstained.

Vizjak said after the vote that clearly a part of the opposition had recognised that the arguments from the ouster motion were “forced”. He said it was particularly important that the majority had realised that “actions count not words”.

“Probably quite a few Slovenians would be in a relatively awkward situation if recordings of their private conversations or meetings were published,” he said.

He said the past few months had been “most troublesome” because of the ouster motion, especially because he had many duties related to Slovenia’s EU presidency.

Confident that he is doing a good job, he plans to carry out the set projects by the end of his term but would not say whether we will run in the next election. He said all options were open.

LMŠ MP Rudi Medved called the vote a Pyrrhic victory. He said that if he were a minister and got the support of less than a third MPs in a no-confidence vote, he would step down seeing it as an expression of no confidence.