Slovene President Consults on Early Election After Premier Quits

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(Bloomberg) -- Slovenia’s president began consultations with political parties over bringing forward summer parliamentary elections after Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned last week.

Borut Pahor is asking the euro-area country’s political leaders in two days of talks if they want to bring forward the ballot, originally scheduled for June, by a month or propose a replacement for Cerar. The prime minister’s resignation, made formally Tuesday in a speech to parliament, followed nationwide strikes by public sector employees and a court’s annulment of a referendum that had paved the way for his government’s biggest investment project. Cerar will remain in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

“The events during the past weeks weren’t in the interest of Slovenia,” Cerar said in his speech.

The upset in Slovenia underscores an atmosphere of political turmoil sweeping the European Union’s eastern nations. Anti-government protests triggered Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s resignation last week, and demonstrations have been held against administrations in Romania, Poland and Hungary, the latter of which holds general elections next month in which Premier Viktor Orban is expected to win a third consecutive term.

Having suffered a plunge in popularity, Cerar’s party is a distant fourth in opinion polls behind frontrunner Marjan Sarec. The comedian-turned-mayor has pledged to sweep out the political elite from Slovenia’s state institutions, including Slovenia’s monetary authority, whose chief is a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing3 Council.

An emerging issue before the election is Cerar’s decision to renege on a pledge to sell the nation’s largest lender, Nova Lujubljanska Banka d.d., last year. The decision defied an agreement with the European Commission that Slovenia made so it could perform a 3.2 billion euro ($3.9 billion) bailout of the state-owned banks in 2013.

Sarec has said he would sell most of NLB and retain a controlling stake. But Cerar’s government is trying to convince the commission there’s another solution for NLB, which with the other banks was pushed to the brink of default after years of mismanagement and political influence.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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