Slovenian SD party says to stay in government despite ousting of minister

By Marja Novak LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia's center-left Social Democrats (SD), a junior coalition partner, said on Friday they would remain in the government despite parliament's sacking of the SD defense minister on Thursday. The coalition will thus keep a comfortable majority in parliament with 52 seats out of a total of 90. The SD had threatened to quit after Prime Minister Miro Cerar asked Janko Veber, who is also a deputy president of the SD, to resign as defense minister because he had ordered the army secret service to analyze the security consequences of the expected sale of telecoms firm Telekom Slovenia. Veber denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign, but was ousted on Thursday by a parliamentary vote, with most of Slovenia's parties saying he should not have used army intelligence to investigate civil matters. The SD is opposed to the sale of state-controlled Telekom, which is the largest of 15 companies that were earmarked for privatization in 2013. So far three of those firms have been sold while binding bids for Telekom are expected on Monday. Despite the row, the SD said it would stay in government. "We feel like an indispensable part of this coalition," Dejan Zidan, head of the SD, told reporters, adding that the party would safeguard the government's social policy platform. Cerar said on Thursday the government would push ahead with planned privatizations despite SD opposition. "With Veber's refusal to resign, the SD lost some of its political capital so its power in the coalition has been somewhat reduced," Meta Roglic, a political analyst at daily newspaper Dnevnik, told Reuters. "Privatizations will continue, but will also remain one of the most difficult topics inside the coalition," she added. The government plans to draw up in the coming months a list of further companies to be sold off. Slovenia has previously been reluctant to privatize many of its state-owned companies, including major banks, which means the government still controls about 50 percent of the economy. In 2013 the government had to pour more than 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) into local banks to prevent them from collapsing under a large amount of bad loans, thereby enabling the country to avoid an international bailout. (Reporting by Marja Novak; editing by Andrew Roche and Crispian Balmer)