Slovenia’s prime minister Janez Janša has survived a no-confidence vote in parliament over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conservative politician has been accused by the opposition of using the health crisis to undermine the rule of law and weaken institutions.
But after a secret vote in the country’s National Assembly late on Monday, Janša won enough support to stay in power.
It was supported by just 40 MPs in the 90-seat chamber, with a majority of 46 needed to oust the government. Seven out of the 53 ballots cast voted against, while six others were invalid, according to the Slovenian Press Agency.
The country’s opposition holds just 43 seats and was relying on votes from the coalition partner Modern Centre Party (SMC) to support the motion.
Karl Erjavec, leader of the opposition DESUS party, had earlier told lawmakers that they were choosing between “an authoritarian democracy and a normal, constitutional and democratic Slovenia”.
DESUS lawmakers also stated that the motion was necessary to “put Slovenia back on the right track” and move closer to the “core” values of the European Union.
It was the second attempt to oust the prime minister in a matter of weeks after a similar motion was withdrawn in January due to the absence of elected representatives. Several MPs were forced into quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, compromising the opposition’s chances of securing the 46 votes they had needed.
The latest motion against the government was tabled last week by five centre-left opposition parties, with Erjavec nominated as a candidate for head of government.
Janša dismissed the opposition’s accusations during Monday’s debate, calling the motion a “destructive farce” and a “waste of taxpayers’ time and money”.
“Our government has done much more than the previous one, in much less time, under more difficult epidemic conditions,” Jansa stated.
After governing Slovenia twice in the 2000s, Janša returned to power in early March to lead a new coalition after the previous five-party government collapsed in January 2020 over internal disputes.
His government had previously lost a parliamentary majority when the DESUS party decided to leave in December.
The prime minister has frequently attacked the country’s media on Twitter, and opponents also have expressed concerns over ties to populist Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban.
Slovenia has recorded more than 3,650 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with around 176 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, although cases have fallen in recent days.