Zorčič says parliamentary speaker’s role should be neutral

Ljubljana – National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič believes that “at least some ministers should have left, perhaps even the government”, but generally gave a positive assessment of the parliament’s work upon the end of the current term, adding that any speaker should retain a neutral position.

When he became speaker, Zorčič said that he would cooperate with the government and lead the parliament through open dialogue and respect for rules and standards.

In an interview with the STA upon the end of the current parliament’s and his own terms, he assessed that he had performed his role in line with professional standards.

That was not always easy, he said, especially after he left the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and thus also the ruling coalition, but he believes that cooperation with the government remained at the level required by the law, and his independent stance helped them to complete their term successfully.

He highlighted the successful adoption of changes to the rules of procedure that allowed MPs to cast their vote remotely. Zorčič believes that digitalisation should be encouraged, while also pointing out the importance of in-person debates in parliament.

He also praised the adoption of the parliamentary code of ethics, but added that “although this was a step in the right direction, we must be realistic in our assessment of its effects”.

On the other hand, Zorčič was critical of a number of parliamentary commissions of inquiry launched this term – as many as seven.

“It seems that groups of MPs have often set up these commissions to counter each other, which is why we have different commissions that deal with similar issues,” said Zorčič, adding that such behaviour trivialises the commissions’ work.

He also warned about the rushed and non-transparent procedures when the parliament was adopting anti-Covid legislative packages, admitting that many things were included in them that did not fit into the framework of the laws.

However, he pointed out that these legislative packages had to be adopted in a hurry due to the unpredictable situation during the epidemic, adding that “in the end, a political majority decides whether a law is passed or not”.

He added that the coalition had held the majority despite talks of a hung parliament that often resurfaced, as certain MPs supported the coalition, even though they were not officially part of it.

These MPs, Zorčič believes, also bear part of the responsibility for the parliament’s “occasional failures to use its oversight function in the way it should”.

Zorčič expects the next line-up to ensure that the newly-elected MPs “do not get lost in time and space, either because of internal disagreements or inexperience”.

He also said that he wished for the next speaker to be a woman, and that he believes his successor will be “more in line with the ruling coalition” than he had been.

Zorčič faced many accusations due to his position, with many people saying that he wanted to have it both ways regarding his attitude towards the ruling coalition.

He argues that he stands by all his decisions, and that the speaker “should be an independent leader of parliamentary process, neutral towards both the opposition and coalition”.

Zorčič’s future political path remains unknown for now, but he intends to remain politically active, although “perhaps somewhere a little less visible”.

He has recently founded a new party called Liberal Democrats (LIDE), but they will not contest the 24 April parliamentary election.

“Nevertheless, I’m convinced that we still need a liberal party and that such a project will have to be built over a long period of time, from the bottom up,” he said.

The party, however, intends to enter the race for the local and presidential elections, both due this autumn.

Zorčič has not publicly supported any other party so far, but expects the next government to focus on the economy and, through its successes, on social policies, while also being able to move beyond left-right divisions.