Supermarket boss to run euro member Slovenia
(LJUBLJANA) - Fresh from a surprise election victory, Zoran Jankovic aimed Monday to get down to business and turn Slovenia around the same way he once did as boss of the euro member's largest supermarket chain.
But whether the same skills that made Jankovic a millionaire and got him elected twice as Ljubljana's mayor will enable him to soothe investor concerns about a slowing economy and a growing debt pile is uncertain, analysts said.
"Today Jankovic can drink champagne," Vlado Miheljak, political analyst at Ljubljana University's Social Sciences Faculty, said after Jankovic's victory on Sunday.
"But tomorrow he will have to take an aspirin, bearing in mind what is ahead of him."
The charismatic and popular Jankovic's newly created centre-left Positive Slovenia pulled off a surprise win in snap elections on Sunday, winning some 28.5 percent of the vote.
In doing so, he saw off former premier Janez Jansa's centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), which had been widely expected to win but attracted only 26.3 percent support, a far cry from the 31 percent predicted in some polls.
Crashing to third place were the governing Social Democrats of Prime Minister Borut Pahor with just 10.5 percent, compared with 30.5 percent at the last election in 2008.
Slovenia thus became the latest in a string of eurozone countries to have a change of government since the region's sovereign debt crisis began, including Portugal, Greece, Italy and most recently Spain.
"The results show that citizens want a different state. They had Jansa and Pahor, now they want a democratic but efficient state," a jubilant Jankovic told journalists at his campaign headquarters on Sunday night.
Despite describing himself as a leftist, the flamboyant and populist Jankovic -- who only entered the race at the last minute -- has pledged to run the country like a company.
"Janez Jansa and Borut Pahor have already had the opportunity to show how successful they are... but our state needs now a businessman," the Serbian-born Jankovic said.
But he faces considerable challenges.
The former Yugoslav republic's first ever early elections were called when Pahor's government lost a confidence vote in September after major reforms to the creaking pension system were rejected in a referendum.
The country has been downgraded by all three major credit rating agencies, interest rates on its debt have risen to unsustainable levels in recent weeks and the export-dependent country is flirting with recession.
Jankovic confidently predicts that by the end of his four-year mandate, Slovenia's economy would reach a growth rate of four percent.
But Jansa said he doesn't think Jankovic will last that long.
"That fragmentation (of parliament) gives little chance for the kind of a (large) coalition that these times require. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid I'm not," Jansa said.
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