Sunday, February 24, 2008

RIP Janez Drnovsek

Slovenia's former president Drnovsek dies

LJUBLJANA (AFP) — Former Slovenian president and long-time prime minister Janez Drnovsek, who had been suffering from cancer, died overnight at his home on the outskirts of Ljubljana, his office said Saturday.

The Slovenian government declared February 25 a day of mourning.

The 57-year-old, who retired after five years as president in December due to ill health, was considered one of the main architects of Slovenia's successful transition from a Yugoslav republic to an EU member state.

Before being elected president, he held the post of prime minister almost uninterruptedly from 1992 -- the year after Slovenia's independence from the former Yugoslavia -- until 2002, two years before it joined the European Union.

Drnovsek started his career as a banker, entering the political stage in 1989 to become Slovenia's representative to the collective eight-member presidency of former communist Yugoslavia.

After independence, he led the centre-left Liberal Democracy party (LDS) into power in 1992, and remained prime minister for 10 years with only a brief interlude in 2000, before quitting due to health problems.

He had been diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1999, and decided to run for the less demanding role of president in 2002 elections. In this post, he became an active pacificist and strong critic of centre-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

After discovering in 2005 that his cancer had spread, Drnovsek became a vegetarian and moved to a village in the mountains outside Ljubljana, where he cooked his own meals and kept to himself.

Last year his health visibly deteriorated and he began to withdraw from the media spotlight. Rumours had been circulating about his condition in recent weeks, although a friend denied as recently as Wednesday that he was gravely ill.

"Drnovsek was largely responsible for Slovenia's social and economic development," centre-right prime minister Janez Jansa, one of Drnovsek's main political opponents over the last two years, said in a statement.

The date and place of Drnovsek's funeral are still not known but the ceremony will be organized only for his family members, Drnovsek's cabinet said.

Drnovsek was not married and had two children.

AFP: Slovenia's former president Drnovsek dies

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