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Slovenia: Opposition Lawmaker Switches Sides Before Crucial Vote

Ljubljana, 8 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Hours before a crucial vote on a new Slovenian government, an opposition lawmaker appears to have broken a parliamentary stalemate by joining Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's party.

Deputy Ciril Pucko cited what he called the "well-being of the state" for his defection today from the Christian Democrats to Drnovsek's center-left Liberal Democrats.

The move is expected to ensure Drnovsek's re-election as Prime Minister after two months of political wrangling over a new government.

Drnovsek, the prime minister in Slovenia's last government, was nominated by President Milan Kucan last month. He was named following elections in November in which no party won an outright majority in the parliament.

Before Pucko's defection, Drnovsek's party had been the strongest in the parliament with 25 of the 90 seats. But three right-wing parties together held 45 seats, one short of an absolute majority.

The vote is expected to take place later today. Correspondents say that if Drnovsek is not approved, Marjan Podobnik of the center-right Slovene People's Party could be nominated to replace him.