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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Why Robert Golob’s government is afraid of the upcoming referendums

By Žiga Koritnik (Nova24TV)

These days, it is possible to detect in the public assessments that the referendum initiatives put forward by the SDS are a simple waste of money and time. Prime Minister Robert Golob described them as SDS’ games, and former “independent” journalist Mojca Šetinc Pašek published an entire file on the theme of the inexpediency of democratic procedures on the website of the Gibanje Svoboda party. Behind the ruling party’s anti-democratic rant is nothing but fear. If the referendums are successful, this additional principle would eat away the reputation of the government and at the same time call into question their otherwise very general programme directions.

During this mandate, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) submitted three referendum initiatives. First, on the amendment to the law on the government, which provides for an increase in the number of ministries, then on the amendment to the law on RTV, the purpose of which is the definitive usurpation of public radio and television by the left, and finally on the amendment to the law on long-term care, which provides for a two-year delay in the implementation of the law. The upcoming referendums will decide the effectiveness of the government’s work, both operationally and cost-effectively, the balance of public broadcasting, and whether the elderly deserve the care they have paid for during their working lives. These are fundamental questions of life in Slovenia.

Regardless of what the ruling Liberals think of referendums, they are a fundamental democratic tool, both in the hands of the ruling party and in the hands of the opposition. Based on the referendum, known as the Plebiscite, we have our own country today. It is a form of direct democracy and an event at which all citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, who also have the right to vote in elections, have the right to vote. So, what will the voters decide on in the upcoming referendums?

Referendum on amending the law on government

The amendment to the Act on the Government results in an expansion of the number of ministries. There are currently 14 ministries in Slovenia, and three additional ministries would be added to the current set, namely the Ministry for a Solidary Future, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, and the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy. Each of these ministries will need a separate bureaucratic apparatus to operate, which will be borne by the taxpayers. The government claims that the goal of the law is to ensure the effective implementation of the tasks of the new government, in accordance with the coalition initiative. The heads of these ministries will be replaced by retired, but obviously deserving left-wing personnel, including (rejected by the voters) Alenka Bratušek, who Robert Golob rescued from certain political oblivion.

If the changes to the government law were to take effect, the new minister for climate justice would be Luka Mesec, and his current state secretary Uroš Maljevec would succeed him at the top of the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation would be headed by Igor Papič, while the current State Secretary Darjo Felda would take over the Ministry of Education and Training. The Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy would be taken over by Bojan Kumer, while the Ministry of Infrastructure would be headed by his current State Secretary Alenka Bratušek.

Sport would no longer be dealt with within the Ministry of Education, but would fall under the Ministry of Economy, which is headed by Matjaž Han from the ranks of the Social Democrats (SD). The Ministry would henceforth be called the Ministry of Economy, Tourism and Sports. The Ministry of Environment and Space, which is already headed by Uroš Brežan, would also be renamed the Ministry of Nature Protection and Space. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Tanja Fajon, will be renamed the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

Referendum on amending the Act on RTV

So far, the most ink has been spilled in the media about the amendment of the Broadcasting Act. No wonder since it affects the operation of public radio and television. The essential change introduced by the amendment to the law is the change in the appointment of members of the programme council. The left wants to change the current arrangement, in which voters have the opportunity (through elections) to influence the composition of the programme council every two years. Political parties that make it to parliament appoint 21 out of 29 representatives, but according to the new proposal, political parties would appoint only two representatives, and most of the others would be appointed by the so-called civil society, which is basically just an extension of left-wing politics, which would cement its influence on the public institution in this way. The current legal regulation was introduced by the first government of Janez Janša, and then the law was decided in a referendum, which passed the law.

According to the proponent of the SDS referendum, the law of the left coalition also has a whole series of other procedural and substantive deficiencies. The coalition adopted the law according to the emergency procedure, which is intended for the adoption of legislation in the event of natural disasters or territorial threats to Slovenia. As a result, the public debate was significantly curtailed when the law was adopted. Moreover, the law introduces other problematic changes on a substantive level, such as the premature termination of the mandates of the director and programme councillors who were legally appointed. The amendment to the law also unreflectively increases the influence of employees on the management of the institution.

Referendum on amendments to the Long-Term Care Act

The nation will also judge changes to the long-term care law. It is one of the greatest achievements of Janša’s reform government. The law in question saw the light of day after 20 years of delays and revisions, over 100 different versions of the law were created until the last government got its hands on it. The law provides the following to the persons with illness, injuries, disability, loss of intellectual abilities and the elderly:

  • help with basic daily tasks, such as eating, drinking and feeding, personal hygiene, dressing, movement;
  • help with supporting daily tasks, such as helping with household chores, buying groceries and daily necessities, preparing and serving meals;
  • nursing care services related to basic daily tasks, such as monitoring of vital functions and other parameters, monitoring of health status, preparation and control of medication administration;
  • services for strengthening and maintaining independence, such as services aimed at strengthening and maintaining functional abilities, counselling for adapting the living environment, post-diagnostic support services for people with physical and mental health problems;
  • e-care is also foreseen, these services include, in particular, information and communication technology aids and services and remote services to ensure the independence and safety of the beneficiary in the home environment.

All these gains for the elderly are now in jeopardy. The coalition voted to amend the law, which allows them to delay the implementation of the law for two years, citing a lack of funds as the reason. It is a lie, they believe in SDS. SDS MP Zvone Černač said when submitting the signatures for the referendum: “Actually, this delay means that there will never be a law. It has been kept in place only because this law is one of the milestones in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which means that its abolition would call into question the recovery fund.”

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