News / Europe

Slovenia Mandates New PM to Halt Dramatic Decline

Slovenian opposition leader Alenka Bratusek at parliament session in Ljubljana, Feb. 27, 2013.
Slovenian opposition leader Alenka Bratusek at parliament session in Ljubljana, Feb. 27, 2013.
Reuters
Slovenia dismissed its conservative-led government on Wednesday and offered a center-left finance expert the task of halting the Alpine country's fall from post-communist star to euro zone bailout candidate.

The 90-seat parliament voted 55-33 to dismiss Prime Minister Janez Jansa's ruling coalition after just a year of trying to navigate through the ex-Yugoslav republic's worst economic and political crisis in 22 years of independence.

The baton passed to opposition Positive Slovenia leader Alenka Bratusek, who will become the country's first female prime minister if she manages to build a coalition around a platform to stabilise its finances and avoid going cap-in-hand to the European Union.

"Today marks a watershed moment for Slovenia," 42-year-old Bratusek told reporters after the vote.

A member of the EU since 2004, the country of 2 million people has gone from economic trailblazer for the rest of eastern Europe when it joined the euro zone in 2007 to the latest ailing member of the 17-nation currency bloc.

With unemployment at a 14-year high and the banking sector strangled by bad loans, speculation is rife that without urgent reform Slovenia may soon be unable to find affordable financing and repay about 2 billion euros of outstanding debt due in mid-2013.

Parliament will probably vote on Bratusek's proposed cabinet in late March.

She has struck a deal with the Social Democrats and two of Jansa's former allies to hand her the reins for 12 months, with an option to keep herself at the helm until an election due in 2015.

Spending cuts and allegations of government corruption have fuelled street protests of a kind not seen since Slovenia split from federal Yugoslavia in 1991 and escaped the bloodshed that would tear apart the rest of the region over the next decade.

The downturn in Europe ravaged its vital export market, while 7 billion euros ($9.15 billion) in bad loans exposed a toxic mixing of politics and finance of the kind that has bedevilled banks across the continent.

Slovenia's 35-billion-euro economy is estimated to have shrunk 2 percent last year and unemployment is more than 12 percent.

Addressing parliament before the vote, Bratusek came out strongly against more austerity, quoting Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz in likening it to "medieval medicine".

"You draw blood and, if the patient does not get better, you draw some more. Our priority is growth and employment, which creates wealth for everyone," she said.

"I state clearly - there will be no Greek scenario in Slovenia."

Jansa, embroiled in a property scandal, had been gradually abandoned by his coalition partners since the turn of the year, further shaking market confidence that Slovenia can do what it takes to steady the ship. He denies any wrongdoing.

But given the policy differences in the likely new coalition - which would group the centre-right Civic List and pensioners' party Desus from the previous government with the two center-left opposition parties - Bratusek is unlikely to have an easy ride.

The parties already differ on the need for a "bad bank", which Bratusek opposed, as a place to park bad loans and unburden local lenders to be recapitalized and sold.

"Bratusek's problem is that the centre-left - her party's natural constituency perhaps - wants more pro-growth oriented policies, but at the same time the problems in the banking sector require pretty orthodox solutions," said Timothy Ash, emerging markets analyst at Standard Bank.

"Slovenia is kind of moving in parallel now with Italy, in terms of trends towards political instability," he said, evoking the dangerous stalemate in the euro zone's third largest economy following an inconclusive election this week.

Estimates suggest a bailout for Slovenia could run to 5 billion euros, mostly for shoring up its banks. Although small by the standards of Greece or Ireland, a bailout would be politically awkward when the euro zone is also wrestling with financial woes in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus.

It would be much tougher on Slovenia itself, forcing the government to make more spending and job cuts, but under international supervision.

For some of the Slovenes who have taken to the streets in their thousands since November to rally against corruption and the political elite, a change of prime minister was only a fig leaf.

"If they bite the bullet and work hard, they might just succeed," said pensioner Drago Ikic in the capital, Ljubljana. "But if they fail, then really all the politicians should just leave and call an early election."

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid