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Slovenia government faces collapse

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Slovenia’s government is facing likely collapse after Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek, whose government saved the small European Union state from an international bailout, lost her party leadership on Saturday.

Zoran Jankovic, mayor of the capital, Ljubljana, was chosen the leader of Positive Slovenia party. Bratusek said before the vote at the party congress that she cannot lead the government.

“Without the support within my own party, I can no longer be the prime minister,” she said.

Jankovic, 61 appealed to Bratusek after the party vote early Saturday to remain as premier, saying she has done a good job at the helm of the government.

Bratusek’s three coalition partners in the four-party center-left government have said they would step out of the cabinet if Jankovic, who is under investigation for corruption, becomes the party leader. If the government collapses in a confidence vote in parliament, elections are likely to follow as early as June.

Bratusek, a 44-year-old financial expert, took office in March last year after the previous center-right government fell over allegations of corruption and slow reform. Her government has cut public spending and started to heal ailing banks to avoid EU bailout.

Bad bank loans are at the center of crisis in the Alpine eurozone nation, once considered a model of eastern European transition from centralized economy to free market.

Jankovic, 61, has denied corruption charges leveled against him by an anti-graft watchdog.

The Civic List, a junior partner in the coalition government, urged immediate talks on the early election date.

Jankovic, a wealthy businessman, founded Positive Slovenia in 2011. Although the party won most votes in the parliamentary election the same year, he was unable to form a coalition government after the vote. He stepped down from the party helm in 2013 to allow his successor Bratusek to form the new government.

Associated Press correspondent Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report.

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