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Slovenian prime minister resigns and calls for snap election

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec announced his resignation and has urged the country to hold an early general election.
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec announced his resignation and has urged the country to hold an early general election.Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press/File 2019/Associated Press

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec stepped down unexpectedly, abandoning his minority government after saying that it lacked sufficient support in parliament.

The collapse puts the Alpine euro-area country on track for its sixth government in 10 years, a period that included a double-dip recession, a banking bailout, the criminal conviction of a former prime minister, and repeated political upheaval. The resignation also underscores the difficulty faced by newcomers from Italy to Ukraine who’ve tapped into popular anger over traditional politics to win power but struggle to rule.

Sarec said he’d submit his resignation to parliament on Monday and talks on a new coalition will begin immediately. But the former television comedian, who unexpectedly stormed to power in a 2018 ballot, said early elections were a better option.

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‘‘People are asking me, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, please do this, please do that,’ ” Sarec told a news conference in Ljubljana, the capital. ‘‘I agree with all their pleas and suggestions, but with this government I just can’t achieve it. That’s why I think it is best to have early elections.’’

Sarec’s five-party coalition had teetered on the point of collapse since a leftist party revoked its support in November, including a bruising squabble over the 2020 budget. With the coalition three votes short of a parliamentary majority, it depends on opposition lawmakers for every new law it proposes.

Sarec said he would extend an invitation to team up in an election alliance with the Party of the Modern Center, or SMC. In his briefing to media, he said a fiscal rule that limited spending was too strict and that the country needed to change its approach to health care. The leaders of parties in the coalition complained that they had not been told of his resignation before the announcement.

One potential motive for Sarec is that, while Slovenia’s political arena remains fractured with no dominant party, an uptick in support for his List of Marjan Sarec movement may give him an edge. Some of the smaller parties have lost support, and could fail to cross the threshold needed to win seats in an election, potentially giving Sarec more sway from redistributed votes.

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‘‘Sarec will be going into a new election as a politician who was opposed by the country’s right wing to implement programs for more equality,’’ said Tihomir Cipek, political science professor at the University of Zagreb. ‘‘The unknown element is that Slovenia has demonstrated in the recent past to be a country prone to sudden political changes, as both Sarec and former Premier Miro Cerar came from parties that didn’t even exist weeks before elections that propelled them to victory.’’

The List of Marjan Sarec leads in popularity, with 15 percent support, according to a poll for 24 Ur television published Sunday. The opposition Social Democrats were in second with 14 percent and SMC was below the parliamentary threshold at less than 2 percent. Six parties would make it into the assembly, down from nine in the 2018 election, the poll showed.

Sarec’s announcement followed the surprise resignation of Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj earlier in the day. Bertoncelj had battled with other members of the coalition over spending.

The yield on 10-year Slovenian bonds fell three basis to 0.16 percent, the lowest since Dec. 12 as investors returned to safe havens due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus and a rally in neighboring Italian debt after the Democratic Party fended off a challenge by the right-wing League to win a regional election.

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