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Politics

Slovenia's designated prime minister expresses confidence in economy

Slovenia's prime minister-designate Alenka Bratusek has pledged to lead the country out of its worst economic crisis in 22 years. Her comments follow Wednesday's toppling of the conservative government.

Lawmakers passed a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minsiter JanezJansa and his year-old conservative-led government on Wednesday by a majority of 55 votes to 33. Two of the lawmakers in the 90-seat legislature abstained.

Opposition leader Alenka Bratusek was given the mandate to form a new government. Provided she can build a coalition she will become the ex-Yugoslav republic's first female premier.

"Today marks a watershed moment for Slovenia," Bratusek, 42, told reporters after the vote.

Wednesday's no confidence motion followed weeks of political turmoil in Slovenia in the wake of corruption allegations against the prime minister.

Last month three of Jansa's four coalition parties left parliament after the state's anti-graft watchdog accused Jansa of corruption. It said he had failed to declare 210,000 euros ($285,000) of his personal assets. Jansa denied any wrongdoing and ignored calls for his resignation, although he failed to provide an appropriate explanation for the watchdog's findings.

Economic instability has fuelled unrest in the small eurozone nation further, with spending cuts triggering street protests of a kind unseen since Slovenia split from federal Yugoslavia in 1991.

The European downturn hit Slovenia hard, damaging its vital export market. Last year Slovenia's 35-billion-euro economy is estimated to have shrunk by 2 percent. Unemployment currently stands at 12 percent. Attempts to cut spending have proved insufficient as Slovenia seeks to avoid becoming the next eurozone nation to seek a bailout.

Emphasis on growth

In her address to legislators ahead of the vote Bratusek outlined her economic strategy, hinting she intended to end unpopular austerity measures and focus on growth.

"Slovenia cannot afford... the economic contraction and rising unemployment. It is clear that cutting spending will not in itself spur economic growth. This policy does not lead to deficit reduction, which has been the state goal of the current government," she said.

Slovenia needs a government pursuing "economic growth and fiscal consolidation without hampering growth." That is the kind of government we wish to form," she added.

Bratusek now has two weeks to present her cabinet and program to parliament and pass a final vote of approval. If she fails, Slovenia will immediately go to the polls.

ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)