Slovenia PM to double as finance minister as coalition partner walks out

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By Marja Novak | February 2, 2013 12:56 AM EST

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, struggling to hold his minority government together and fighting corruption charges in court, said on Friday he would double up as finance minister after a junior coalition party walked out last week.

Analysts said Jansa's move was an attempt to show that he was still in control, especially as the opposition has so far been unable to agree on who it wanted as prime minister.

"It seems that taking over the finance ministry is a power statement on Jansa's part - he is in control," said Otilia Simkova, an analyst of Eurasia Group.

"For now, Jansa's seat seems safe as...it seems that at the moment the opposition is not able to reach an agreement on an alternative prime minister," she added.

Mired in recession and weighed down by huge bad loans in its banking sector, Slovenia is hoping to avoid accepting an international bailout. Former Finance Minister Janez Sustersic said last week that the public finances were assured until June.

The Civic List party quit the ruling coalition last week when Jansa refused to step down following an anti-corruption committee's report that said he was unable to explain the source of some of his income over past years. Its two ministers - one of them Sustersic - also stepped down.

Another two junior coalition partners have said they would quit in the coming weeks unless a new prime minister is named.

Jansa told parliament he would temporarily fill the finance post himself, while Infrastructure Minister Zvonko Cernac would double up as justice minister, filling the other post vacated by Civic List.

Slovenian legislation allows for such an arrangement for up to three months, after which new ministers have to be named.

The government coalition now has 4 parties and controls just 41 of the 90 seats in parliament.

Jansa has been on trial for alleged bribery in an arms deal with Finnish arms maker Patria. He has denied any wrongdoing and pledged to continue to lead the minority government.

Civic List said it might form a coalition with the main opposition party, the centre-left Positive Slovenia, if its leader and Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic resigned.

The anti-corruption committee has found fault with Jankovic too over his wealth and its origin. He has so far refused to resign.

Slovenia was badly hit by the global crisis because of its dependency on exports. The country fell back into recession in 2012 amid lower export demand and a fall in domestic spending due to budget cuts.

In October the country issued its first bond in 19 months, averting a bailout at least until June.

(Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Hugh Lawson)

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