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Slovenian PM to stay on despite coalition breakup

Updated at: 01/24/2013 9:07 AM
By ALI ZERDIN

(AP) LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - Slovenia’s embattled prime minister refused to step down Thursday despite the breakup of his ruling coalition, saying an election now would hurt the small European Union nation that is struggling to avoid an international bailout.

Prime Minister Janez Jansa told a press conference that he will stay on until he is removed from the post by a parliamentary no-confidence vote or as the result of a wider political agreement.

"Slovenia cannot afford to hold early elections at this point," he said. "We have a government with full authority."

The Civic List party quit the ruling coalition Wednesday after Jansa refused to resign over corruption allegations against him. A report issued this month by an anti-graft watchdog accused him of failing to declare more than (EURO)200,000 ($266,000) in private assets, which he has denied.

On Thursday, Slovenia’s ministers of justice and finance, who are from Civic List, formally submitted their resignations, which need to be confirmed in the parliament.

Jansa has insisted that his government must first push through an austerity package so the country can cut costs amid a deep financial crisis linked to the eurozone’s debt crisis. Slovenia is among the 17 nations that use the common euro currency.

The government’s cost-cutting measures have led to widespread discontent, triggering the biggest protests this otherwise calm Alpine nation has seen in decades. On Wednesday, a massive public sector strike brought the country to a halt over wage cuts.

Jansa said a way out of the political crisis would be to form a new government in parliament or to reach a wider political consensus about what anti-crisis steps must be taken before an election.

"Neither of the two solutions are in the hands of the prime minister," he noted.

Jansa’s government was formed after an early election in December 2011 following the collapse of the previous, center-left government.

Slovenia’s main opposition leader, Zoran Jankovic, also faced corruption allegations in the anti-graft report. He is accused of failing to clarify where (EURO)2.4 million ($3.1 million) of his money has come from.

Slovenia, once a star economy among EU newcomers, has seen its gross domestic product shrink 3.3 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier. That was the third-biggest drop in the eurozone after Greece and Portugal, which both have had EU bailouts.

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Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)