July 17, 2018 / 7:07 AM / 2 months ago

Slovenia faces prospect of early election after NSI quits coalition talks

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia faced the prospect of early elections after the conservative New Slovenia (NSI) party pulled out of coalition talks late on Monday, blaming divisions between the six movements taking part.

FILE PHOTO: People board a bus of "List of Marjan Sarec" party (LMS) for general elections in Kamnik, Slovenia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Borut Zivulovic/File Photo

NSI leader Matej Tonin said “potential conflicts” had emerged between the parties trying to form a government just over a month after an inconclusive election, though he did not give details of the disagreements.

“If things are complicated today, what will happen in the coming months when conditions may be more demanding?” he asked reporters. “To coordinate six very different partners is a very demanding job.”

One of the main issues facing the country is the looming sale of its largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), expected to start in the autumn. Slovenia committed to selling the state-owned lender in exchange for the European Commission’s approval of state aid to NLB in 2013..

Politicians have also been tussling over reforms to the ineffective state health service and to the pension system to ease the burden of a rapidly ageing population on the state budget.

The anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) won the most votes in the June 3 national election, but withdrew invitations to coalition talks earlier this week after being spurned by other parties.

Centre-left leader Marjan Sarec, whose LMS party finished second in the vote, has been trying to form an alliance with five other smaller groups including NSI which has seven out of parliament’s 90 seats.

LMS refused to comment whether it will continue coalition talks with other parties. “We will take time to consider matters,” LMS spokeswoman Nika Vrhovnik said. Together, all six would have 50 seats.

If parliament fails to elect a prime minister in the coming weeks, an early election could be held in autumn.

Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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