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Interpellations and Impeachment Before the Constitutional Court – the Left-Wing Opposition Shooting Itself in the Foot

The results of the vote of no confidence against the current government, the interpellation of Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Simona Kustec, the interpellation of the Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Janez Cigler Kralj, and the interpellation of the Minister of Culture, Vasko Simoniti, are like shots in the foot for the left-wing opposition.

The left-wing opposition is nervously filing one interpellation after another against the Ministers of the Janez Janša government; however, the results of their efforts are more and more miserable, from one interpellation to the next. Not only are they getting fewer and fewer votes, but the public can also see from the debates of the MPs what the left-wing political gang has and has not done in the last decades. Even though they somehow managed to collect 40 votes for the constructive vote of no confidence against the government, they only collected 38 votes in favour of both of the following interpellations. In the case of Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti, 43 out of 83 deputies voted in favour of the interpellation, and 40 voted against it, with the result being a direct consequence of the changes in the SMC party. Namely, the interpellation was supported by the deputies Igor Zorčič, Janja Sluga and Branislav Rajić, despite the coalition agreement. The three deputies left the SMC parliamentary group and formed a new group with the DeSUS MP Jurij Lep, who also voted in favour of the interpellation.

Spending of the former Minister
Interpellation against Minister of Education Simona Kustec, which took place on the 15th of March, was set to fail before it even happened. More or less the same sentences were repeated over and over again during the 16-hour debate, and the Minister was mostly accused of causing the epidemic. They also accused her of being the first Minister of all of Europe to close the schools, which, of course, is not true. The schools were first closed by the Former Minister of Education, Jernej Pikalo, who decided for this without actually preparing the students and teacher for distance learning in any way. However, the interpellation also highlighted some interesting data, such as a comparison of travel expenses of the former Minister of Education, Jernej Pikalo, and the current Minister, Simona Kustec.

The comparison data covered the 18-month term of the former and the 11.5-month term of the latter Minister. For Pikalo, they listed 30,938.24 euros in travel expenses, while Kustec’s amount was only 219 euros. The average monthly consumption for business trip expenses is almost 2 thousand euros (1721.29 euros, to be exact) for Pikalo and 5.05 euros for Kustec. Pikalo charged 4,368.93 euros to his business credit card, which he used to pay for room service in hotels and even for renting a tailcoat. For comparison, we should mention that during the current Minister’s term, she has charged a bit more than 200 euros to her business credit card. Pikalo also travelled quite often, as he attended various conferences and meetings in Paris, London, Madrid, Tokyo, Beijing and so on. Of course, all of this happened before the epidemic, and so that must also be taken into account.

The extremist opposition is losing votes
After the Interpellation of the Minister of Education, journalist, publicist and expert on political events in Slovenia, Tino Mamić emphasised that he found it completely unwise for the opposition to insist on the interpellations. “The only effect of these interpellations is that the public gets to see that they are losing votes.” Political analyst Miloš Čirič agreed with Mamić. He described the interpellation of Minister Kustec as meaningless because the interpellation is a tool, which the opposition is supposed to only use when it has strong arguments for it, and since the current opposition is using it so often, it is only causing it to lose support among its deputies, as evidenced by the low number of votes. “I am convinced that this will cause them to get fewer and fewer votes, they will lose their credibility, which is not the wisest thing, politically speaking,” Čirič pointed out. According to Čirič, Kustec’s interpellation had the opposite effect of the desired outcome, as the Minister was given an opportunity to share all of her achievements with the public – which are not negligible. An interpellation is a tool for assessing the suitability of a minister, when it is supported with good arguments. In the case of the interpellation in question, it was clear, according to Čirič, that it was staged by force. In addition, Čirič said that this interpellation was one of the most boring interpellations so far. He believes that the Minister prepared very well for the discussion, as she also listed all of her achievements. Čirič also notes that in the case of Minister Kustec’s interpellation, the opposition failed to provide the right arguments to actually confirm the Minister’s inadequacy. In the long run, however, the opposition is losing its credibility and votes with such actions, as the interpellation was only supported by 38 MPs. “As we were able to see, they have fewer and fewer votes every time,” Čirič said.

Minister Cigler Kralj was pleased
An interpellation was also filed against the Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Janez Cigler Kralj, because the left-wing opposition was bothered by the fact that the institute received public funding from one of the public tenders. The interpellation also listed a few other, poorly articulated reasons, but what else could you blame the Minister for when the ministry he leads is finally working and building homes for the elderly and when the unemployment rate is rising more slowly than in the so-called core Europe? The Minister himself was also pleased with the outcome of the interpellation, and he calmly commented that, as he had announced, the discussion had provided some insight into the functioning of our society. They spoke openly about the situation in the field of care for the elderly before and after the epidemic. He stressed that the state of this particular field has not been good in the past decade. He added that he is convinced that positive shifts can only happen in an open society through respect for fellow human beings and the awareness that our future depends on all of us. He thanked all those who support him in his efforts to help and ensure well-being and prosperity for all residents. The interpellation thus ended with 44 votes against and 38 votes for.

The Constitutional Arch Coalition is not giving up
However, the opposition parties of LMŠ, Levica, SD and SAB, which are part of the Constitutional Arch Coalition, also filed an interpellation against the Minister of Culture, Vasko Simoniti, on the 5th of February. Among other things, the Minister was accused of not establishing a dialogue with the cultural workers. The third interpellation of one of the Ministers of Janez Janša’s government that happened in recent weeks was discussed on the 24th of March in the National Assembly.
As soon as the interpellation was announced, the Ministry of Culture stated that this would be a good chance for them to present all of their achievements from the past ten months, which were mostly marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. They emphasised their belief that the state of culture has improved during the time of Minister Simoniti. “Slovenia has received an exceptional development framework of European funding for the coming years, and Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti managed to provide Slovenian culture with an additional 87 million euros within the recovery and resilience plan,” the Ministry of Culture wrote on Twitter. As already mentioned, the interpellation against the Minister of Culture, which dragged on for two days, also failed. The left-wing opposition was three votes short, despite the fact that three SMC MPs and a DeSUS MP also cast their votes in favour of the interpellation.

Šarec threatens with impeachment before the Constitutional Court
In a tweet, the leader of the largest opposition party, LMŠ, Marjan Šarec, announced an impeachment of the Prime Minister Janez Janša before the Constitutional Court, saying that the proposal had already been written, and that it had three points: wavering of duty when buying vaccines, destruction of the Slovenian Press Agency, and meddling in the state prosecution. The rest of the opposition was not exactly thrilled about his announcement, as evidenced by the headline in Delo, a newspaper of the transitional left, which wrote the following headline: “Šarec arbitrarily threatens with an impeachment before the Constitutional Court.” Namely, the President of the SD party, Tanja Fajon, has already announced that her party is not in favour of such radical moves by the LMŠ party, as there are still more appropriate means to be used. On the 2nd of April, the opposition LMŠ, SD, Levica and SAB parties, in accordance with Šarec’s announcement, submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for the impeachment of Prime Minister Janez Janša before the Constitutional Court. The Prime Minister responded by saying that this was a new pathetic attempt to overthrow the government and destabilise Slovenia during the epidemic: “Following the vote of no confidence, the media assassinations of the coalition partners – the DeSUS and SMC parties, and a series of failed interpellations, a new, pathetic move by the first-class, to destabilise the country during the epidemic. The worse for Slovenia, the better for the SD, LMŠ and SAB parties.” Head of the SDS parliamentary group, Danijel Krivec, also shared his opinion on the matter, stating that the impeachment before the Constitutional Court is completely unfounded, and also explained why. And according to the leader of the NSi parliamentary group, Jožef Horvat, it would be better for Slovenian politicians to sit down at the same table.

In order for the impeachment of the Prime Minister before the Constitutional Court to actually happen, the opposition once again needs 46 votes – and so far, it has always turned out that they do not, in fact, have as many.

Petra Janša

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