Nationalists Take Power in Euro-Member Slovenia as Virus Rages

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(Bloomberg) -- Slovenia’s parliament approved a new government led by nationalist Janez Jansa, adding him to the pantheon of anti-immigrant populists who’ve taken power in the European Union’s east.

Jansa, a former prime minister and close ally of Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, will inaugurate his third government since 2004 in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak that’s threatening, like in other European countries, to virtually shut down most aspects of daily life. With the pandemic raging in neighboring Italy, Slovenia’s Economics Institute halved its 2020 growth outlook to 1.5% and warned that it may need to downgrade the forecast further.

Nationalists Take Power in Euro-Member Slovenia as Virus Rages

Jansa’s return to power is a victory for his Slovenian Democratic Party, which won a 2018 parliamentary ballot but was blocked from forming a coalition by other political forces that objected to its anti-immigrant electoral campaign.

‘Biggest Challenge’

Jansa said his first priority was to stop the creep of the disease known as Covid-19, which he called “the biggest challenge since independence” from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The virus has infected 141 people in Slovenia, with no fatalities yet.

The epidemic is forcing schools and businesses to close and prompting governments to restrict travel in an economic shock. With that raising the risk of bankruptcies and job losses and hammering tax income, new Finance Minister Andrej Sircelj said he may revise the 2020 budget “very soon, before summer.” The existing budget envisions a surplus of 0.8% of gross domestic product.

New Interior Minister Ales Hojs has also underscored what he said was a need to protect the Balkan state’s borders against the virus and immigrants, and has proposed building fences at the border with Croatia. That would echo measures taken over the last decade by Jansa’s ally Orban, who built a fence on Hungary’s southern border and has clashed with the rest of the EU over the erosion of the rule of law.

Jansa remains the most divisive political figure in Slovenia. In 2013, he was found guilty of taking a bribe in an arms-deal of Slovenian military and given a two-year prison term that was later dismissed by the Constitutional Court.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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