The Slovenia Times

Key projects to continue, election expected in May


President Borut Pahor announced that he will not put forward a prime minister-designate for the approval of the National Assembly. He believes that it makes more sense to call an early general election, expectedly in the second half of May.

The day was marked by reactions to the move which Cerar said was the result of the Supreme Court ordering a repeat of a referendum that had upheld the government's plans for a major upgrade of a key railway section to the port of Koper. He also spoke of a constant undermining of the government irrespective of its good results.

Cerar's Modern Centre Party (SMC) announced it would strive for parliament, which still has full powers, to carry on with all key national and strategic projects.

The party mentioned the implementation of the Slovenian-Croatian border arbitration award, issues concerning the NLB bank, while also announcing the procedures for the construction of the rail track would "continue within the legal framework".

Fears about Slovenia losing EU funding for the Koper rail track were assuaged by European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who said the EUR 109m in EU funds envisaged to co-finance the project are temporarily frozen, not lost.

The Finance Ministry also expects that Cerar's resignation will not affect talks with the European Commission on privatisation of the country's largest bank, while there is also a uniform view among parliamentary parties that NLB needs to be shielded from the Croatian lawsuits related to Yugoslav-era deposits.

The Defence Ministry said it expects the project of the modernisation of the Slovenian Armed Forces will be slowed down somewhat. However, investments in key equipment for the Slovenian Armed Forces and the creation of two battalion-sized battle groups will be continued.

Economists and businesses do not expect Cerar's resignation to have any major negative consequences for the economy or financial markets, because the general election was already close.

Meanwhile, political analysts see Cerar's early exit as a strategic move. Matevž Tomšič of the Nova Gorica-based School of Advanced Social Studies said Cerar has obviously realised that he has lost control of the situation and that the coalition does not work any more.

Alem Maksuti of the Institute for Political Management said the SMC had realised it is in a blind alley. It had problems with the Koper rail track, healthcare and in public sector pay negotiations.

Andraž Zorko of pollster Valicon spoke of a move that "was not only brave but also quite wise", as it will bring major change for the positioning of the SMC, since it can escape the automatic negative perception typically accompanying governments.

Opposition parties focused in today's reactions on the failure of the coalition to execute some its key projects, also highlighting healthcare and the Koper rail track upgrade, while they also pointed to the issues surrounding the NLB bank.

Janez Janša of the largest opposition party, the Democrats (SDS), went further, saying Cerar was pressed into resigning by the revelation that "Croatia has been seizing the assets of the NLB bank since 2015" and that the government failed to do anything about it.

According to Janša, the outgoing coalition is also afraid of the pending final reports of parliamentary inquiry commissions on public procurement in hospitals, on developments at banks before the crisis and the upgrade of the TEŠ thermal power plant.

While Janša said it would make sense to hold a general election on 10 June as initially planned and organise a repeat rail track referendum simultaneously, other parties mostly embraced the idea of holding the election sooner.

Franc Jurša of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), who called Cerar's decision a marketing move, believes the coalition and government are now "hardly in a position to pass any meaningful legislation".

The junior coalition SocDems begged to differ. SD president Dejan Židan proposed refraining from any last-minute staffing decisions, joining forces in talks on the European budget and in addressing the "currently biggest social inequality" in the country, meaning "the long waiting lines in healthcare".


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