Slovak President Appoints Cabinet of Returning Premier Fico

  • Fico to lead Cabinet of Smer party, SNS, Most-Hid, Siet
  • New government must face confidence vote within 30 days

Slovakia’s president on Wednesday swore in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s new cabinet, in which formerly antagonist parties are banding together after an inconclusive ballot to block out a far-right extremist party and avoid early elections.

Fico’s Smer party won the March 5 vote but lost its majority in the 150-member parliament. It joined forces with the Slovak National Party, with which it ruled in a 2006-2010 administration, the center-right Siet party and Most-Hid, which mostly represents ethnic Hungarians. The cabinet, Fico’s third, must present its program to parliament and survive a vote of confidence within 30 days.

Bringing together former political opponents with widely differing priorities, the coalition controls 81 of parliament’s 150 deputies. The four parties teamed up to prevent a further surge by the far-right Slovak People’s Party, which won a 10th of the chamber’s seats following anti-immigrant campaigns by Fico and other politicians. The ruling grouping has agreed on basic goals of the new administration including corporate tax cuts and higher welfare spending on families, measures that will result in delaying the target for a balanced budget by two years to 2020.

“There is high chance that the government will survive its full term, as two junior coalition parties are unlikely to vote for snap elections because their prospects of getting into parliament again are very low,” said Juraj Kotian, the joint head of macroeconomic research at Erste Bank in Vienna. “Smer has a clear majority in the government and controls all relevant ministries thus we expect a strong continuity in economic policies.”

The coalition pairs Fico’s Smer with Siet, a two-year-old party that criticized the prime minister for non-transparent public spending and failure to fund schools and health care. At the same time, Most-Hid agreed to work with the Nationalist Party, whose former leaders used to criticize the Hungarian minority for undermining the state. They have warned that the People’s Party, whose leader has praised the Nazi regime that ruled Slovakia during World War II, may gain more influence in an atmosphere of rising xenophobia in Europe due to terror attacks and the refugee crisis.

President Andrej Kiska re-appointed Peter Kazimir, one of the most outspoken critics of Greece during the escalation of its debt crisis last year, as finance minister, while seasoned diplomat Miroslav Lajcak kept his post as foreign minister. Economy Minister Vazil Hudak was replaced by Peter Ziga, who led the Environment Ministry in Fico’s second administration.

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