Slovenia mandates new PM to halt dramatic decline
By Zoran Radosavljevic
LJUBLJANA (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 stabilize 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. Continued...