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New PM for troubled euro member Slovenia

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Political newcomer Alenka Bratusek faced Thursday the tough task of trying to form a government in crisis-hit Slovenia, a day after Prime Minister Janez Jansa was turfed out of office.

Slovenia's first female premier has said her top priorities are "normalising" life by softening "excessive" austerity measures that, as in other eurozone nations, have been unpopular with ordinary voters.

First though she has two weeks to present a cabinet to parliament or the president will call early elections -- the second in two-million-strong Slovenia in 14 months.

The 42-year-old former finance ministry official only became an MP after the last election in December 2011 and has been acting leader of her centre-left Positive Slovenia party only since January.

"We have to boost economic development," she said Wednesday, 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.

Barely a year after taking office, a large majority -- 55 to 33 -- MPs backed late Wednesday a motion of no confidence in Jansa and his centre-right government following weeks of political turmoil.

Jansa 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 Positive Slovenia leader Zoran Jankovic, prompted large protests across the country by ordinary Slovenians fed up with austerity cuts and corruption.

An opinion poll earlier this week showed just 21 percent backed Jansa and 77 percent wanted him out of office.

Bratusek has said that she will submit her government to a confidence vote after a year in office.

"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," analyst Vlado Miheljak 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.

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

The Slovenian 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 the new government will inherit a banking system saddled with bad debt and possibly needing outside help.

bk/stu/boc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130227/new-pm-troubled-euro-member-slovenia