Third minister resigns from scandal-hit Slovenian government

Ljubljana (AFP) –


Slovenia's government on Wednesday suffered its third high-profile departure in a little over five months with the resignation of Environment Minister Jure Leben over a scandal concerning the construction of a new railway.

"Although I have a clear conscience, as a minister it would be irresponsible for me to jeopardise the credibility of the ministry I?ve been heading,? Leben said in a statement announcing his resignation.

He's the third minister to have to resign since Prime Minister Marjan Sarec's government was sworn in last September, with the other two forced out by separate allegations of bullying and abuse of office.

In his previous role as state secretary at the infrastructure ministry, Leben was in charge of the 1.2-billion-euro ($1.4 billion) project to build a new railway serving Koper, Slovenia's main port.

In 2018 Slovenian media revealed that the infrastructure ministry had chosen a railway model twice as expensive as its nearest competitor for no obvious reason.

The ministry claimed at the time that the decision had been down to an "administrative mistake" and Leben denied any involvement, blaming subordinates at the ministry.

However, emails recently leaked to Slovenian media showed he had been involved in the process that led to the signing of the contract.

Sarec's five-party minority government had promised to bring high ethical standards to politics and promised that "crime and corruption will not be profitable".

However, despite the string of ministerial departures, polls show that the government remains broadly popular with Slovenian voters.

Earlier this month, a member of Sarec's LMS party resigned for stealing a sandwich from a supermarket because he was annoyed about being ignored by staff.