Published January 11, 2013
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – About 10,000 protesters joined the chief of Slovenia's anti-corruption watchdog on Friday in urging the country's prime minister and opposition leader to resign after an official report accused them of graft.
"Thieves! Thieves!" many of the demonstrators chanted as they accused Prime Minister Janez Jansa and opposition leader Zoran Jankovic of corruption. The protesters burned photos of both men in front of Parliament.
"They have to go and that's it," said Nada Vukadinovic, a demonstrator carrying a banner about the two politicians and saying: "They Are Finished."
Riot police stood by in Liubliana, Slovenia's capital, but did not intervene.
A report issued this week by the state Commission for the Prevention of Corruption accused Jansa and Jankovic of serious graft, creating a political crisis in a Balkan state already suffering economic problems and setting off widespread calls for both men to face legal and political consequences.
Goran Klemencic, the head of the watchdog, told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday that the two are accused of "systemic, gross and repeated violations of the anti-corruption legislation."
"It's been the first time in this country that an anti-corruption watchdog has ... accused the head of the government and the head of the opposition, who together basically cover more than 60 percent of the Slovenian political sphere and have held very high offices," Klemencic said. "In that respect, it is expected that this has created an upheaval."
The commission report said Jansa has failed to declare more than €200,000 ($265,260) worth of private assets. It accused Jankovic, who is also the mayor of Ljubljana and one of the richest people in Slovenia, of failing to clarify where €2.4 million ($3.1 million) of his money came from.
Both have denied the accusations and refused to step down, criticizing Klemencic and his commission, which filed the report to the police seeking legal action.
Friday's protesters demanded an end to austerity measures which Jansa's government has proposed in an effort to avoid seeking EU financial help for the country.
Some of the banners carried by Friday's protesters read: "Klemencic, You Are Our Hero."
"How can the prime minister and the head of the main opposition party, the mayor of the capital city, in a democracy, still be in place, after such findings?" Klemencic said in the interview.
"If nothing happens, either in terms of political consequences, or in terms of strengthening our powers and also our accountability, I will resign," Klemencic said. "I don't want to be part of a system which is a paper tiger, which conducts a very thorough, in depth financial investigation based on facts, and basically then nothing happens."
Jansa's center-right coalition partners have called on him to step down and let someone else be the premier. He refused, giving them until next week to decide whether to remain in the government or start preparing for early elections.
An early vote would further prolong finding solutions for the financial turmoil, which includes a gross domestic product shrinking by 3.3 percent in the third quarter compared to a year earlier. That's the third-biggest drop in the euro zone after Greece and Portugal.
Associated Press writer Ali Zerdin contributed.