Slovenian Coalition Partner Sees Government Surviving Full Term

  • Party leader sees no risk that could trigger early vote
  • Erjavec expects sale of NLB bank to return taxpayers money

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar’s government will probably survive its four-year term, the first administration to do so since the the global financial crisis, according to Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, the leader of the junior coalition Desus party.

Cerar’s administration is set to rule until regular elections scheduled for fall 2018, Erjavec said in in interview in the capital Ljubljana Tuesday. With the government nearing the thorny issue of selling state-owned Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d., Erjavec’s prediction sends a calming message after his party threatened to quit the three-party coalition in December.

“It would be quite irresponsible to trigger an early vote, as this can have negative consequences for Slovenia since political stability is of paramount importance in terms of our credit rating and bond yields,” Erjavec said. “I personally think we will complete the term, although in politics nothing is 100 percent certain. ”

The Adriatic nation, one of the slowest in Eastern Europe to dispose of its state-owned assets following the fall of communism, has seen consecutive governments struggle to stay together, with the sale of its banks, including NLB, the biggest lender, often dividing ruling partners. The bank received almost half of the 3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in state aid in 2013 when the country was on the brink of seeking an international bailout. Since the financial crisis three cabinets collapsed before Cerar’s party took power in September 2014.

Erjavec said the ruling coalition has to stick to its commitment to sell NLB as he doesn’t want to see taxpayers footing another bill for the bank’s rescue. The lender’s management and representatives from the state asset-management agency began a roadshow for an initial public offering of a majority stake in the bank this week, the Finance newspaper reported on March 7.

“My expectations as president of the Desus party with the sale of NLB bank is to get the amount the taxpayers paid for it when we rescued the bank,” Erjavec said. “The question is if it’s really the right moment to get such a price.”

Slovenia must sell NLB by the end of the year, as demanded by the European Union. The bank, which received a capital increase of 1.55 billion euros in 2013, recorded a profit of 110 million euros in 2016, a 20 percent increase from a year earlier. The country expects at least 1 billion euros from the sale or an equivalent book value, the Delo newspaper reported last month, without saying where it obtained the information.