July 16, 2018 / 12:05 PM / in 8 months

Anti-immigrant Slovenian party cancels talks to forge coalition

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - The anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), the nation’s largest, withdrew invitations to coalition talks after being spurned by other parties, raising the risk of instability as six other groups try to cobble together an alliance.

FILE PHOTO: Marjan Sarec, leader of The List of Marjan Sarec speaks during an interview with Reuters, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/File Photo

Analysts now expect center-left leader Marjan Sarec, whose party finished second in the June 3 election, to try to form a coalition of six parties but this is likely to be difficult, leaving the distinct possibility of early elections.

One of the first tasks of the new government will be to prepare the sale of Slovenia’s largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), expected to start in the autumn. Slovenia committed to selling the state-owned lender in exchange for the European Commission’s approval of state aid to NLB in 2013..

Slovenia’s next government faces other major challenges including reforms to the ineffective state health service and to the pension system to ease the burden of a rapidly aging population on the state budget.

SDS spokesman Miro Petek said on Monday “most other parties were not ready to negotiate or even talk about a coalition” apart from two small conservative and nationalist parties, and so the SDS had canceled invitations to discussions.

Last week President Borut Pahor gave SDS chief Janez Jansa, an ex-prime minister, until July 19 to tell him whether he could form a government. Jansa invited all parliamentary parties to coalition talks on Thursday but most rejected him.

Even the SDS’s two most likely conservative and nationalist partners together hold just 11 seats and so would leave SDS well short of a governing majority. The SDS holds 25 of the 90 seats in a highly fragmented parliament.

As a consequence, Jansa is expected to inform Pahor by Thursday that he will not seek to head a new government.

Pahor has until July 22 to nominate a candidate. If he is unable to find a candidate, parliamentary members will get 14 days during which they will be able to nominate candidates.

In the meantime, Sarec’s the center-left List has been holding talks with the conservative New Slovenia (NSI) party and four on the center left - the Social Democrats, Party of Modern Centre, Party of Alenka Bratusek and pensioners’ party Desus.

The six together hold 50 seats in parliament - good enough for a solid majority - but it remains unclear whether they will be able to blur differences in the interest of a coalition.

Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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