Slovenia Needs a 'Grillo' to Kick-Start the Economy

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Six weeks ago, the Slovenian daily newspaper Delo wrote that the government of Janez Jansa was “clinically dead.” The only question then was how long it would be before it actually expired. Yesterday, the parliament in Ljubljana gave the government its coup de grace: The conservative Jansa was out and center-left politician Alenka Bratusek has 15 days to form a new government, otherwise Slovenia is heading for early elections.

Bratusek and her Positive Slovenia party will probably succeed in cobbling together a new administration with the opposition Social Democrats, among others. She says she has four priorities: “kick-starting growth, balancing public finances without hampering growth, protecting and developing the public sector, and restoring people’s trust in the institutions of the state.”

All this is a tall order. Slovenia’s people are enraged by the state of their country and talk about their leaders in much the same way as supporters of Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement do in neighboring Italy. But, they don’t have a Grillo. What they do have, however, is a lot of the same structural problems as their Balkan cousins, including Bulgaria, where the government has also just collapsed.

Jansa succeeded in beginning many of Slovenia’s much-needed reforms. But even as prime minister he has been on trial for corruption. Then, in January, Slovenia’s anti-corruption agency said he had serious questions to answer, as did the leader of the opposition, Zoran Jankovic, who is also the mayor of Ljubljana. Jansa claimed that this was a political plot, and Jankovic, while remaining mayor, yielded the party leadership to Bratusek.

So, there you have it. Bratusek, is perceived, according to Bostjan Videmsek, who edits Delo’s “Revolt in Alternative" section, as not being her own woman, because Jankovic remains “the godfather” of the party, and he has been tainted by the allegations, even though he denies them. It will be hard for her to break free. It will be even harder to create jobs and reduce the effects of austerity in an already debt-saddled country, much of whose economy is dependent on the fate of the euro area. Good luck, Alenka, you will need it.

(Tim Judah, the Europe correspondent for the World View blog, is a correspondent for the Economist and author of several books on the Balkans. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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