By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec resigned on Monday and called for an early election, saying his minority government could not push through important legislation.
Opposition leader Janez Jansa, the head of the largest parliamentary party, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), told reporters an early election was "by far the most likely option".
Parliamentary speaker Dejan Zidan said an election could be held in the second half of April. It would be Slovenia's fourth early election in a row.
The governing coalition of five centre-left parties, which took power in September 2018, held only 43 out of 90 seats in parliament. After losing the informal support of the opposition Left Party in November, it has found it increasingly difficult to get bills through parliament.
"With this coalition, this situation in parliament, I cannot fulfil the expectations of the people," Sarec told a news conference. "I would be able to fulfil them after an election."
Just before his statement, the national news agency STA reported the resignation of Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj.
On Friday, Bertoncelj issued a statement protesting against new legislation proposed by Sarec's LMS party, under which the national budget would cover possible losses of the country's national health system, saying that would not be acceptable.
Analysts said the SDS is likely to try to form a new government, adding an early election would take place only if that attempt fails.
"The opposition will try to form a new government, but it is hard to say whether they will succeed. What could work in their favour is that parliamentary members might be reluctant to go to election more than two years before their mandate expires," Meta Roglic, a political analyst, told Reuters.
SDS holds 26 seats in parliament but could not form a coalition government after the 2018 election. Analysts believe it will try to form a government with the conservative New Slovenia party (NSI), which has seven seats, the centre-left Party of Modern Centre, which has 10 seats and some other parties.
The head of NSI, Matej Tonin, told reporters the best option would be an early election as any new coalition "would be weak".
However, Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek, the head of SMC, which is a junior member of the outgoing coalition, told reporters the prime minister's resignation does not need to result in early election, saying he is open for talks in all directions.
According to Slovenian legislation a new prime minister candidate can be nominated by President Borut Pahor or by parliamentary members.
The next regular election is due to take place in the middle of 2022. The latest opinion poll, published by TV channel POP TV on Sunday, put prime minister's LMS in the lead with support of 15.1%, just before the opposition SDS with 14.1%.
(Reporting By Marja Novak; editing by Larry King)