Slovenian coalition party asks premier to resign

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - A junior coalition party threatened on Saturday to quit the conservative government of financially troubled Slovenia unless Prime Minister Janez Jansa resigned over corruption allegations.

Protesters hold candles during anti-austerity and anti-graft protests in Ljubljana January 11, 2013. More than 5,000 Slovenians gathered in the centre of Ljubljana on Friday to protest against a corruption scandal that threatens to bring down the government. Slovenia's anti-corruption commission said earlier this week that Prime Minister Janez Jansa had been unable to explain the source of some of his income in recent years. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

The small European Union member has been in political crisis since Tuesday when an anti-corruption commission said Jansa was unable to explain the origin of some of his income.

Jansa denied the income was of suspicious origin and retains strong support within his center-right Slovenian Democratic Party. But smaller coalition partners said they were considering quitting the government.

“If Jansa does not resign in 10 days ... the Civic List (CL) will no longer be a member of the coalition,” the head of the CL, parliamentary speaker Gregor Virant, said after a meeting of the party’s council on Saturday.

The government, which is trying to fend off a fiscal collapse due to recession and bad loans at state banks, is a coalition of five parties with 48 out of 90 seats in parliament. The CL holds seven seats, meaning the government would lose its parliamentary majority if the party quit.

“If the Civic List leaves, other parties will follow so Jansa has no chance of remaining prime minister,” said Meta Roglic, an analyst at daily newspaper Dnevnik.

She said Jansa’s party might nominate another prime minister or other parties could choose an independent candidate who would lead a government of technocrats.

If the parties fail to agree on a new prime minister, Slovenia would hold its second election in little over a year.

Jansa’s coalition came to power in early 2012 after a snap election in December 2011. That vote came after parliament ousted the previous center-left government over its inability to implement economic reforms.

Opposition leader Zoran Jankovic, who is also mayor of the capital Ljubljana, said on Saturday he would not run for prime minister because the anti-corruption commission had said he too was unable to explain the origin of some income. Jankovic has also denied wrongdoing.

More than 5,000 people protested in the center of Ljubljana on Friday, demanding that Jansa and Jankovic resign over the corruption allegations.

Analysts said Slovenia will have to resolve its political crisis quickly to avoid more downgrades of its credit ratings, which have been cut several times over the past 16 months due to political instability and the slow pace of reforms.

Slovenia, which joined the euro zone in 2007, was badly hit by the global crisis due to its reliance on exports. It fell into a new recession in 2012 due to weaker export demand and budget cuts.

In October, the government issued Slovenia’s first sovereign bond in 19 months, averting a bailout for at least six months.

Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Tom Pfeiffer