The National Assembly has backed the ruling party’s proposal to make 2 January a bank holiday again four years after the date was removed from the list of public holidays as part of austerity measures.
The Modern Centre Party (SMC)-sponsored amendment to the public holidays act was carried by 61 votes against ten at Tuesday’s emergency session and will be applicable as of 2017. The proposal has been embraced by the coalition and the opposition United Left (ZL), which failed to muster sufficient support for the same proposal a year ago on account of the SMC voting against.
Speaking on behalf of the motion sponsors, Speaker Milan Brglez said the rationale behind the proposal was to “give people back what was unfairly taken away from them”. He rejected the criticism that it was a populist move, saying instead that it was about restoring “non-ideological tradition…which had been in force since 1955”. The 2 January bank holiday was scrapped by the centre-right Janez Janša government in May 2012 through an omnibus fiscal austerity act which affected a whole line of laws.
On the law’s passage, the argument was that it would enable savings, but Brglez said today that no one had ever proven that in practice to date. The speaker’s arguments were mostly echoed by coalition MPs, with those from the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) and Social Democrats (SD) voicing satisfaction the SMC had had a change of heart. Backing the motion, Labour Ministry State Secretary Peter Pogačar said that 2 January would take the tally of work-free holidays in Slovenia to 12, which compared to the EU average of 10 to 15.
While not supporting the motion, the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) did not vote against although MP Iva Dimic said they would have preferred 6 January, celebrating the Christian festival of Epiphany, instead of 2 January and Good Friday instead of 2 May, as is the case in many other Western countries. The opposition Democrats (SDS) lambasted what they described as a populist motion, arguing that “the government will waste away in two months 40% of the savings made through the omnibus act”.
“If there’s no bread, there will be games at least,” said SDS deputy MP Žan Mahnič, adding that with the proposal Brglez “is obviously launching a campaign for next year’s presidential poll”. Meanwhile, unaffiliated MP Mirjam Bon Klanjšček questioned the timing of the proposal, noting that the country’s economy had been growing since 2014, and wondering why all austerity measures were not scrapped. Businesses have mostly been critical of the proposal, also because of it being put forward at such a short notice.