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Slovenian PM designate scrambles to form cabinet

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Slovenia's prime minister designate scrambled Thursday to find ministers for her new centre-left government, not least to run the troubled euro member's finances, as commentators warned that the crisis was far from over.

Alenka Bratusek announced late Wednesday the signing of a coalition agreement two weeks after the centre-right premier Janez Jansa was ousted in a confidence vote following weeks of protests and political turmoil.

Bratusek, who only became an MP in 2012 and head of the Positive Slovenia party earlier this year, had been expected to file to parliament a list of her ministers by 1100 GMT on Thursday but by 1630 GMT still had not done so. The deadline is 2300 GMT.

Her spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Media reports said that the 42-year-old was having problems finding a finance minister, a job that is particularly vital since Slovenia's banks are in such a dire state that the country may need a bailout.

Bratusek, a former finance ministry official who has promised a confidence vote after a year in office, said Wednesday that the "political crisis... (is) obviously over".

"Hard work is ahead of us but all four parties that have agreed on forming a coalition are convinced that Slovenia, with the measures and objectives we have agreed on, can solve by itself this situation," Bratusek had said.

She added "an absolute priority will be solving the banking problems and I believe that will remain a priority as long as we do not solve it."

But commentators were not so sure that the former Yugoslav republic, a shadow of the former model newcomer to the European Union in 2004 and the eurozone in 2007, was out of the woods yet.

The weekly Demokracija called the new coalition, with 50 seats in the 90-seat parliament, a "recipe for disaster", predicting that the inexperienced Bratusek would struggle to keep the fractious coalition together.

In an editorial titled "Requiem for Slovenia", the Finance weekly said it feared Bratusek underestimated the gravity of the situation, while the free daily Zurnal24 said government promises to reach out to protestors would be insufficient without creating jobs and tackling corruption.

The deputy president of one of the new coalition members, the Civil List (DL), former finance minister Janez Sustersic, resigned on Wednesday in protest at what he predicted would be a softening of austerity measures.

"This government does not have a clear economic policy," Sustersic was quoted as saying by the Dnevnik newspaper. "I'm afraid Slovenia might soon need to ask for international financial help."

Jansa, who took office in February 2012, struggled to implement structural reforms and austerity measures and his government collapsed after Slovenia's corruption watchdog accused him in January of tax irregularities.

The accusations, rejected by Jansa, prompted large protests across the country among ordinary Slovenians fed up with austerity and graft in what became the country's worst political crisis since independence in 1991.

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 and growth has gone into reverse and unemployment has risen.

The national debt more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, and credit rating agencies have long sounded warnings about a mountain of bad loans piling up at Slovenian banks, many of them state-owned.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130314/slovenian-pm-designate-scrambles-form-cabinet-1