March 8, 2019 / 2:55 PM / 8 months ago

Slovenia health minister quits in new blow to minority government

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia’s health minister resigned on Friday, becoming the fourth minister to leave the center-left minority government and raising concerns about its ability to survive until the next scheduled election in 2022.

FILE PHOTO: Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec speaks during an interview with Reuters in Ljubljana, Slovenia, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/File Photo

Samo Fakin quit for what he said were health reasons, nine days after Environment Minister Jure Leben quit amid media reports about alleged corruption linked to a railway project in 2017 when Leben was a senior infrastructure ministry official.

Leben has denied wrongdoing, saying he resigned to ease the pressure on the government.

In January, Culture Minister Dejan Presicek left over infighting within his ministry, and Development Minister Marko Bandelli stepped down in November over an alleged irregularity associated with to EU funding allocations.

“The resignation of the health minister is the biggest blow to the government so far as the health sector is crucial, affecting every citizen,” TV Slovenia analyst Tanja Staric said.

Improving the efficiency of the health sector is one of the government’s priorities as Slovenes in some cases wait several years for non-urgent surgery.

“These resignations show that relations inside the coalition are very complicated,” Staric told Reuters, “and that it will be almost impossible for the government to stay in power throughout its four-year mandate.”

A Mediana agency poll last week found 56 percent of citizens backing the government, down from 63 percent a month before.

But analysts said the government is likely to remain in power for at least another year thanks to solid economic conditions.

Export-oriented Slovenia narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013. It returned to growth a year later and the economy is expected to expand by up to 3.7 percent this year versus 4.5 percent in 2018.

Prime Minister Marjan Sarec’s coalition is composed of five parties and holds 43 of the 90 seats in parliament, relying on the opposition Left party with 9 seats to pass major bills.

Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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