By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – Slovenia’s parliament is expected to elect Janez Jansa as prime minister on Tuesday, handing a third term to a center-right leader who plans to decentralize the state and fight red tape to improve services and economic growth.
Jansa, the head of the largest party in parliament, the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), is set to replace center-left Marjan Sarec, who resigned in January.
Last week Jansa formed a coalition with the center-left Party of Modern Centre (SMC), the conservative New Slovenia and the pensioners’ party Desus. The four parties together hold 48 out of 90 parliamentary seats, although one SMC member has said he would not support a government led by Jansa.
Jansa told parliament his government will work toward cutting red tape, improving infrastructure and decentralizing the country by locating new institutions outside the capital.
He also said taxes on wages will have to increase to get more money for the national health system and care for the elderly. As a result, he said, the country has to improve economic growth, which reached 1.7% year-on-year in the last quarter of 2019, the lowest quarterly growth since 2013.
“The fact is … that only economic growth, that is creation of new value, can represent a basis for well-being. All the rest is bluff,” Jansa said.
He said being a member of the European Union and NATO is in the “strategic interest” of Slovenia which will take over the EU presidency in the second half of 2021.
He said his government plans to introduce army conscription to strengthen the military, adding Slovenia’s professional army “is not capable of defending the state”. He also said he hoped to cooperate with the opposition on the main projects.
Jansa, 61, led the government from 2004 to 2008 and from 2012 to 2013. He is close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and advocates stricter border controls to prevent the illegal inflow of migrants.
In 2013 he was sentenced to two years in prison for taking a bribe in a 2006 armored vehicle deal but served only six months before the Constitutional Court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial. The case eventually expired. Jansa denied any wrongdoing.
The parliament is due to confirm Jansa in a secret vote later on Tuesday. Following that Jansa will have 15 days to present his cabinet, which is expected to be approved by parliament by the end of March. Jansa will take over once his government is confirmed.
Sarec, who led the first minority government in Slovenia’s history, resigned because his government did not have enough support in parliament to pass important legislation.
A regular parliamentary election is due in the middle of 2022.
(Reporting By Marja Novak, Editing by William Maclean)