Four opposition parties in Slovenia accused the government at an ongoing emergency parliament session on Monday of brutal staffing and of undermining the independence of sovereign institutions.
The government insisted that the replacements in institutions had been legal and that having the right personnel was crucial for effective work.
Nik Prebil of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which demanded the session along with the SocDems (SD), Left and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), expressed indignation over what he sees as an excessive amount of replacements at key posts, which on top of that come amid a health crisis.
Speaking of an attempt to change society and undermine democratic standards, he highlighted replacements in the police force, in particular at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), in the Armed Forces, at both intelligence agencies, the Statistics Office and at the Financial Administration.
His LMŠ colleague Brane Golubović said the government was “exploiting the epidemic to settle accounts with anyone disagreeing with it”. Institutions are being subjugated in particular “where investigations need to be stopped”, with servility being prioritised over competences in the appointments.
The Left’s Nataša Sukič accused the government of authoritarian tendencies, arguing the Left did not accept the view that each government can appoint submissive staff to government agencies. Some should stay independent, she said.
Boštjan Koražija, also an MP for the Left, said that “when Janez Janša rules, experts need to become subservient to politics”. He added that the extensive replacements did not help people feel secure during a health crisis.
Government representatives and the opposition National Party (SNS) rejected the accusations, with Interior Minister Aleš Hojs expressing surprise over the opposition calling an emergency session because the government was simply doing its job. He argued it was crucial that the right staff occupied certain posts.
Defence Ministry State Secretary Uroš Lampret defended the replacement at the ministry, including of the chief of staff and the OVS intelligence and security agency, saying they were completely in line with the practice so far.
Lampret added trust and compatibility with the minister were important due to the sensitive nature of these posts.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Ajda Cuderman touched on the reproaches concerning the planned merger of several regulators into two agencies, assuring parliament that none of the current directors of the eight agencies would have to end their term prematurely because of the merger but would continue their work at one of the new agencies.
Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims said denying the government the right to make legal replacements, to appoint competent people able of pursing beneficial politics, was perverted.
Dušan Verbič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) added former prime ministers had done so too, while Blaž Pavlin of New Slovenia (NSi) pointed to Janša’s predecessor Marjan Šarec directly saying staffing changes were needed for any change to take place.
“Some of us speak about this openly and transparently, while some are hiding behind all kinds of masks of alleged neutrality,” Pavlin added.
Meanwhile, Maša Kociper of the opposition SAB agreed that governments usually appointed people they trusted. However she added that what stood out under the current government were appointments of individuals with extremely clear political affiliation.
Predrag Baković of the SocDems moreover disagreed with the argument the replacement had been legal, pointing to a court verdict that explicitly declared the dismissal of Darko Muženič as NBI head illegal.
The opposition MPs, as STA reported, drew up a number of recommendations, which for instance call on the government to focus on the health crisis and refrain from political interference in the sovereignty and professional work of state institutions. The National Assembly will not vote on them, since they were already rejected last week by the Home Affairs Committee.
Today’s session is the first ever with the option of remote participation due to the epidemic, but only one MP, Samo Bevk of the SocDems, has made use of this possibility./ibna