Alenka Bratušek New PM-designate
The National Assembly appointed Positive Slovenia (PS) interim head Alenka Bratušek Slovenia's first female prime minister-designate as it simultaneously dismissed in a no confidence vote the government of Prime Minister Janez Janša whose term lasted just over a year.
The 55-33 vote, which limits the powers of Janša's cabinet to caretaker duties while leaving Bratušek with the task of forming a new government, came after an 11-hour session at the outset of which Bratušek signalled a break with austerity policies in favour of a growth-based consolidation of public finances.
"Slovenia cannot afford a continuation of the economic contraction and rising unemployment. It has become clear that cutting spending will not in itself achieve economic growth. This policy does not lead to deficit reduction, which has been the stated goal of the current government," she said.
Bratušek, who said she would seek to "steer Slovenia safely to elections", listed four key priorities: kick-starting growth, balancing public finances without hampering growth, protecting and developing the public sector, and restoring people's trust in institutions of the state.
She announced a supplementary budget for 2013, "a break with the extreme notions of the sale of state property", probable tax hikes and a "break with the culture of fear" that she suggested was promulgated by the current government.
As for foreign policy, Bratušek said ratification of Croatia's EU membership was in Slovenia's "geostrategic interest". "Party heads agreed that at the meeting with the president, I hope everyone is capable of honouring this agreement."
Janša, who saw his coalition collapse after the Corruption Prevention Commission found that he had violated the integrity law by failing to properly account for his assets, responded by expressing concern over the measures announced by Bratušek.
A supplementary budget that would erase austerity efforts would be repeating old mistakes at the worst possible time, he said, while also criticising a potential increase in value added tax.
Janša hailed the achievements of the government, arguing it had demonstrated ability for dialogue and also highlighting the successful negotiations on the EU's budget for the next seven years.
Regarding the criticism that Slovenia has not seen economic recovery under his term or new jobs, he said that such statements were ridiculous and that he had never promised recovery in a year.
Janša devoted a large part of his address to the Corruption Prevention Commission's findings, reiterating that only the findings about a several-month delay in reporting of his assets and a mistaken report on the value of his car were true, while the other, more serious, findings were false and baseless.
Suggesting that the release of the report was not a coincidence, he stressed that today's no-confidence vote were a result of the false claims contained in the report and opposition to the government's efforts to stabilise the country's banking system with the bad bank.
The presentation of views by MPs confirmed majority support for Bratušek, with those in favour saying either that the political crisis needed to be ended, that the "harmful" policies of the present government needed to be stopped, or that a no-confidence vote was the only way to an early election.
Parties who left the ruling coalition mostly focused on the anti-corruption report, which singled out Janša as well as suspended PS president Zoran Janković, while the PS and SocDems criticised the government's policies.
Gregor Virant of the liberal Citizens' List (DL) also pledged support to Bratušek, but added that a long road was ahead when it comes to the forming of a new government. If agreement is reached and Bratušek puts forward a competent team, this team will lead Slovenia to an early election that will probably be held in the spring of 2014, Virant said.
Bratušek meanwhile came under repeated attacks from Janša's Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) that she had failed to present a concrete programme.
She said that it seemed as if PM Janša wanted to reverse roles, that she had outlined her priorities and that the detailed programme remained to be set down in talks on the new government.
Bratušek will now have 15 days to propose a cabinet to the National Assembly, a deadline that can be extended once at her request.
Talks on the new government are scheduled to be launched on Thursday by the PS, SocDems, Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the Citizens' List (DL).
Political analyst Vlado Miheljak told the STA that Bratušek's appointment had never been in doubt, as this was the only way to solve the key problem of how to get rid of PM Janša. Similarly, analyst Matej Makarovič sees Bratušek's appointment as a reflection of current balance of power.
However economists Jože P. Damijan and Matej Lahovnik expressed doubt that a new government led by Bratušek could successfully govern for a substantial period of time due to the major differences among its potential partners on economic policy.
While employers expect the potential new government will continue to implement reforms that are crucial for encouraging economic growth, Slovenia's biggest trade union association, ZSSS, said it hopes that the new government will realise that social and workers' rights are not the enemies of economic development.