Protests in Slovenia continue despite government's fall

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Thousands of Slovenians protested against corruption and the political elite in the center of Ljubljana on Saturday, demanding a snap election after the conservative government of Janez Jansa was ousted last week.

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Slovenia is struggling to avoid an international bailout, and parliament last week nominated budget expert Alenka Bratusek of the center-left Positive Slovenia to form a new government.

Jansa’s coalition was brought down in part by street protests of a kind not seen since Slovenian independence in 1991, driven by spending cuts and allegations of government corruption.

Saturday’s march, whose organizers put participation at 10,000 and police at 5,000, was comparable with some of the largest so far, despite being held in pouring rain.

“We are not right and we are not left but we are the people who are sick of you,” said a banner held by one protesters in the capital of the small Alpine state.

“The incoming government has the same structure, the same principles as the old one, so we need a new election and we have to vote out the parties that are in parliament at present,” said 56-year old Gorazd Mlekuz, who works in transport.

“We need to create jobs for the young. My son, who is a historian, was an excellent student but there is no job for him. He works as a volunteer now and he was lucky to get even that.”


Slovenia, which adopted the euro in 2007, was badly hit by the global financial crisis due to its dependency on exports, and fell into a new recession last year amid lower export demand and a drop in domestic spending caused by budget cuts.

Slovenia is also struggling to cope with a rising number of bad loans on the books of its banks, which are mostly state-owned. The last straw for Jansa was a corruption scandal in which he was implicated, although he denies wrongdoing.

Bratusek has until Thursday to nominate her cabinet, which should take office this month if confirmed by parliament.

She has promised to call a confidence vote next year to enable parties to trigger an early election if they are dissatisfied with her government.

In October, Slovenia did manage to issue its first sovereign bond in 19 months, pushing back a bailout until at least until June. It hopes to borrow up to 4.6 billion euros this year to repay outstanding debt, finance its budget needs and help the ailing banks, which need fresh capital.

“I’m protesting because life in Slovenia is getting worse, there is more and more poverty and people are not equal,” said a 21-year-old social science student who gave her name as Maja.

“The government scrapped my scholarship last year so I can only get by with the help of my parents, but I am worried that even an early election might not bring any improvement.”

Several hundred people have been arrested in similar protests across Slovenia in recent months, but no incidents were reported on Saturday.

Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Kevin Liffey