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Thursday July 9th, 2020 4:03AM

Slovenia's premier resigns over court ruling on referendum

By The Associated Press
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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia's prime minister said Wednesday he is resigning after the country's top court annulled last year's referendum on a key railway project and ordered a new vote.

Miro Cerar said he sent his resignation to parliament and will formally notify the president Thursday. The move means that Slovenia's parliamentary elections, which were due in early June, will be held a few weeks earlier.

"I have made a decision any trustworthy politician should make in such a situation," Cerar said in a statement broadcast live. "You (citizens) will have a chance in the elections to judge between right and wrong and who deserves your support."

Cerar also praised his center-left government's achievements in curbing an economic downturn in the tiny European Union nation of 2 million people that is the home country of U.S. first lady Melania Trump.

"During my term the economic crisis ended. Slovenia has stable economic growth, third strongest in EU," he said. "We have the lowest unemployment rate after 2009."

The government also has faced a wave of strikes and protests by public sector workers demanding higher wages amid economic recovery. Many schools in Slovenia were closed Wednesday as teachers went on strike for the second time in a month.

Slovenia's Supreme Court ruled earlier Wednesday that government backing for the railway project during the referendum campaign was one-sided and could have affected the outcome of the vote.

The referendum in September approved the government's plan to build 27 kilometers (16 miles) of additional railway linking the Adriatic port of Koper with the Divaca hub near the border with Italy.

The vote was initiated by independent campaigner Vili Kovacic, who also took the issue to Slovenia's top courts. Kovacic was supported by some opposition parties.

Cerar said the rail project is of "strategic importance for the development of Slovenia." He complained that "some are jeopardizing Slovenia's development."

The date for the new referendum wasn't immediately set.

___

Associated Press Writer Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.

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