Slovenia holds no confidence vote against PM amid crisis

Slovenia's parliament sat for an extended debate Wednesday ahead of a no-confidence vote expected to spell the end of Prime Minister Janez Jansa's one-year-old government.

Jansa has refused to step down over corruption claims, paving the way for the leader of the main opposition centre-left, Alenka Bratusek, to be given the mandate to form a new government.

The prospect of early elections -- the second in two years -- still loomed large amid a worsening economic crisis that could see Slovenia requiring a bailout much like Greece, Ireland or Spain.

Wednesday's debates began at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) and were expected to go on for at least 11 hours, with the no-confidence vote expected only in the evening.

Positive Slovenia filed the no-confidence motion last week as Jansa's five-way coalition crumbled under his refusal to step down amid massive nationwide protests that have led observers to dub this the worst political crisis since independence in 1991.

An opinion poll for Planet Siol TV earlier this week showed only 21 percent of citizens backed Jansa's government while 77 percent opposed it.

Fifty-two percent of those polled backed the creation of an interim technical government, raising the prospects of new early elections.

If the no-confidence motion goes through as expected, Bratusek will become the country's first female prime minister.

Political analyst Vlado Miheljak warned that the 42-year-old mother of two had her work cut out for her.

"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 also failed to reach a deal with the centre-left PS after early elections in December 2011, making a collaboration now unlikely.

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

A former finance ministry official, Bratusek just took over as PS leader from Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic, who was forced to resign over corruption claims, and her policy plans remain unclear.

"Under normal circumstances, she could be a rather decent prime minister," Miheljak said, adding her main problem will be to create a cabinet with experts rather than coalition party leaders, as was the case in the outgoing government.

The newcomer has already said she will seek a confidence vote after one year.

Slovenian daily Delo said Wednesday that the vote of no-confidence was aimed at 54-year-old Janez Jansa as an individual, rather than the government as a whole.

"This session would not be taking place if Jansa could and wished to explain to the anti-corruption commission where he got the (undeclared) money... or if at least he had done the right thing after the commission’s report was published," columnist Marko Pecauer said in a front-page editorial.

Opposition and coalition parties called on Jansa to step down after the country's anti-corruption body found irregularities in his finances in January.

His refusal to go eventually brought the entire government down as coalition parties abandoned the ship in protest.

Two-million-strong Slovenia, once a model EU and eurozone newcomer, is struggling against recession and high unemployment, which have prompted painful and unpopular austerity measures, while its banks are suffocating under a mountain of bad debts.