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Government falls in troubled euro member Slovenia


Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa's year-old centre-right government fell late Wednesday after lawmakers backed a no-confidence motion following weeks of political turmoil in the small eurozone country.

The mandate for forming a government amid the country's worst crisis since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 now passes to political newcomer Alenka Bratusek of the centre-left, as Slovenia's first female premier.

Presenting her programme to parliament earlier, Bratusek said her top priorities would be "normalising" life by softening "excessive" austerity measures imposed by the outgoing government and stimulating growth.

"We have to boost economic development," the former finance ministry official told lawmakers, announcing plans for a revised budget shortly after taking over.

"We will stabilise public finances and agree with social partners over the necessary wage cuts and the very likely temporary increase of some taxes," she added.

Jansa became prime minister in February 2012 after his centre-left predecessor Borut Pahor himself lost a confidence vote, triggering early elections in two-million strong Slovenia.

Jansa though has struggled to implement structural reforms and austerity measures seen as vital for putting what was once a model newcomer to the European Union and the eurozone in 2007 back on the road to growth.

But the death blow came when the corruption watchdog in January accused him of tax irregularities, prompting three parties to quit his five-way coalition and leaving his government with only a third of seats in parliament.

The charges, which also felled the leader of the largest opposition party -- Zoran Jankovic of Positive Slovenia -- prompted large protests across the country among ordinary Slovenians fed up with austerity and graft.

An opinion poll earlier this week showed that Slovenians wanted Jansa out, with 21 percent backing him and 77 percent opposed.

Fifty-two percent also backed the creation of an interim technical government, raising the prospects of new early elections for the second time in 14 months.

Bratusek, who only became an MP at the last election and who has said she will seek a vote of confidence after a year in office, will have her work cut out, political analyst Vlado Miheljak warned.

"A much bigger uncertainty is whether Bratusek will manage to form a new government since the People's Party (SLS) and the Civil List (DL) might not be ready to collaborate in it," he told AFP.

The two centre-right parties were the first to leave Jansa's coalition government, but after the last election in December 2011 they baulked at teaming up with Positive Slovenia.

Bratusek will have two weeks to propose her cabinet for approval by parliament, and if she fails to secure coalition partners, Pahor -- now president -- may decide to call early elections.

"Under normal circumstances, she could be a rather decent prime minister," Miheljak said.

Slovenia's economy grew between 2004 and 2007 at around five percent per year but the global financial crisis found the export-dependent country badly exposed.

The national debt more than doubled between 2007 and 2011 and the new government will inherit a banking system saddled with bad debt and possibly needing outside help.