Slovenian government resigns

(B2) Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar tendered his resignation on Wednesday evening (March 14) after a major infrastructure project was called into question, against a background of crisis within a majority at the end of his term of office. " The forces of the past do not allow us to work for future generations. (…) I submit my resignation to parliament “, announced the Prime Minister during an impromptu press conference.

The refusal of the referendum on the port of Koper: the final straw

A few hours earlier, the Constitutional Court had invalidated a September 2017 referendum on the development of the port of Koper, on the Adriatic coast. During this consultation, Slovenian voters had approved the construction of a new railway line to serve the only major commercial port, of strategic importance for the country. It is a flagship project of the majority of Mr. Cerar, estimated at more than one billion euros. The Prime Minister was hoping for work to start before the summer. The Constitutional Court criticized the government for failing in its duty of neutrality by financing the campaign with public funds.

A 'sabotage' of the coalition

The cancellation of the referendum was " the straw that broke the camel's back ", according to the Prime Minister who accused his coalition partners on Wednesday of having deliberately " sabotaged several projects from the executive lately. Miro Cerar felt that it was up to Head of State Borut Pahor to convene early legislative elections or not to renew the 90 deputies in parliament. He meets the president this Thursday (March 15).

A troubled party

Miro Cerar's Modern Center Party (PCM) was in any case preparing for difficult elections, scheduled for June or July, at the end of its four-year mandate. Elected in 2014, this 54-year-old respected former jurist then caused a sensation by winning the legislative elections at the head of the party he had created, a few months after entering politics. But the disavowal of the Constitutional Court comes after a series of crises which have weakened the government majority.

The return to growth

Several waves of strikes have paralyzed this small country of the European Union since the beginning of the year, driven in particular by the social demands of civil servants who demand salary increases, and to reap the fruits of austerity past. Slovenia indeed returned to vigorous growth of 5% in 2017, the highest in ten years, after experiencing a severe recession in 2012 and 2013 due to the crisis in its banking sector. But the government has so far rejected the demands, saying that a rise in salaries in the public service " would plunge Slovenia back into recession ". A few months ago, the fate of a Syrian migrant supported by part of public opinion had already shaken the coalition and weakened Mr. Cerar.

Possible fragmentation of the hemicycle

These elections could lead to a fragmentation of the hemicycle, making it difficult to form a government. Before this election which will take place at the latest in July, the formation of Mr. Cerar is very far ahead in the polls by his main rivals, including the conservative party (SDS) of the former center-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa and the social Democrats (SD), currently allies of Mr. Cerar within the majority.

A Slovenian 5 star?

But a newcomer regularly tops the polls: Marjan Sarac, a former comedian and mayor of a small town, a candidate with a vague program and no structured party. The one who had become known for his imitations of Slovenian politicians before retraining in politics, had already created a surprise by qualifying for the second round of the presidential election in November 2017. He then campaigned on the rejection of the elites by a disillusioned electorate, which had massively shunned the ballot boxes.

NB: this is the second resignation in a few hours of a government in Europe, the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico having also presented his resignation yesterday, consequences of the affair of the Slovak journalist murdered.

(with AFP)

Photo credit: Council of the EU, Miro Cerar on his arrival at the European summit in February 2018

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).