LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenian police have arrested 141 people after clashes with protesters angry over austerity and corruption, the most violent anti-government unrest in the euro zone member state since federal Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up in 1991.
The deputy mayor of the provincial city of Maribor warned of “possible anarchy” after the disturbances there and in five other centers including the capital Ljubljana. Only the protests in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, turned violent.
Protests against graft and austerity measures have rocked the ex-Yugoslav republic that more recently had been the economic star of eastern Europe.
Police said on Tuesday 119 people were arrested in Maribor and another 22 in other towns for “disturbing law and public order”. Twenty-five policemen were injured in Maribor.
Protesters in Maribor demanded the resignation of Mayor Franc Kangler, who has been accused of corruption. They hurled firecrackers, fireworks and rocks at the riot police.
Kangler was expelled from the Slovenian People’s Party, a junior partner in Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s conservative coalition, in November due to graft allegations, but has so far refused to resign as mayor.
His deputy, Milan Mikl, said on Tuesday protesters had every right to warn the politicians “but this should not go to extremes like it did last night and, I fear, may recur in the future”.
“I am afraid there will be total anarchy,” he was quoted as saying by the official STA news agency.
Slovenia, which joined the euro zone in 2007, is now struggling to avoid a bailout amid recession, high unemployment and a rising number of bad loans in local banks.
The government plans to cut public sector wages, reduce most welfare benefits, raise the retirement age and cut spending on schools and health in order to reduce the budget deficit to some 3 percent of GDP in 2013 from 4.2 percent seen this year.
Reporting by Marja Novak, writing by Zoran Radosavljevic, editing by Mark Heinrich