By Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) - Slovenia’s lawmakers on Tuesday backed an anti-immigrant politician to become the new prime minister, setting the stage for the formation of a right-leaning government in the small European Union country.

The 90-member parliament voted 52-31 to support Janez Jansa, the leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party, or SDS, as the prime minister-designate. Jansa now has two weeks to assemble his Cabinet, which will also need parliamentary approval before it can take office.

The vote follows the resignation in January of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Sarec, who stepped down, saying his minority government lacked support to do its job properly. Sarec had called for an early election, but his two former coalition partners instead agreed to form a new government with Jansa.

Jansa is a veteran Slovenian politician who is a close ally of hardline Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Jansa’s SDS won the most votes in the 2018 parliamentary election, but other groups in parliament initially refused to cooperate with the party because of its right-wing policies.

The regrouping on Slovenia’s political scene has triggered protests by liberals and prompted outgoing Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, the founder of the Modern Center Party, to quit the party in protest.

Jansa told lawmakers on Tuesday that the new coalition will seek to work together on the issues they can agree on.

Jansa was convicted in 2013 of taking a bribe in an army equipment deal and given a two-year prison term that was later squashed by the Constitutional Court. Critics in Slovenia fear Jansa could push the traditionally moderate country toward populism.

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