politics

Slovaks Tilt Toward Snap Vote as Ruling Party Sets Ultimatum

Updated on
  • Most party says it will quit government if no deal reached
  • Organizers of biggest protests since communism plan new rally
Robert Fico and Robert Kalinak Photographer: Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

Slovakia took a step toward early elections after the smallest party in Premier Robert Fico’s ruling coalition said it would quit if it failed to clinch a deal on a snap vote halfway through the cabinet’s four-year term.

Fico’s ruling pact is teetering on the brink of collapse in a political crisis triggered by a journalist’s murder that has ignited the biggest protests since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Most party made its ultimatum late on Monday, saying it will meet with Fico and its other partner, the Slovak National Party, to discuss its demand.

Robert Fico

Photographer: Balazs Mohai/Bloomberg

“We think that only early elections would solve this situation,” Most Chairman Bela Bugar told reporters in Bratislava. “If these talks fail, the party will leave the coalition.”

While anti-government protests over the past year have failed to dislodge administrations in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, the rallies in Slovakia have put unprecedented pressure on Fico. The three-time premier, who has styled himself as a pro-European Union counterpoint to euroskeptic leaders who have clashed with the bloc over democracy, has for now rejected calls from opponents to step down for what they say is rampant corruption.

The government will face a no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday. When asked whether Most would join in the vote against the cabinet, Bugar said “we are not there yet.”

Protesters in Bratislava rally against corruption and to pay tribute to murdered Slovak journalist on March 9.

Photographer: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

President Andrej Kiska has called for elections to be moved forward from 2020 or for a “radical” overhaul of the cabinet to take place to restore trust in state institutions.

He said last week Slovakia had been shaken after the execution-style killing of Jan Kuciak, who was reporting on criminals with alleged ties to the government, and his fiancee at their home last month. Tens of thousands of Slovaks took to the streets for a second week on Friday and are planning a new rally against the government this week.

Andrej Kiska

Photographer: Lisi Niesner/Bloomberg

Fico suffered his biggest casualty on Monday when his political protege, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, resigned. The man best positioned to replace the premier at the head of his Smer party, Kalinak has borne most of the ire of protesters and opposition parties for a weak stance against alleged corruption and alleged links between organized crime and the government.

The Slovak sovereign bonds initially fell on Tuesday, with the ask yield on the note maturing in 2031 rising 5 basis points to 1.35 percent. Later it pared losses.

Early elections must be approved by a three-fifth majority of all lawmakers in parliament, where the ruling parties control a thin majority of 78 of the chamber’s 150 seats. Leaders of the three coalition parties were meeting Tuesday to discuss Most’s proposal.

The outcome of the snap vote agreement hinges on the Slovak National Party, whose Chairman Andrej Danko said on Monday the party was ready for early elections if needed. Hours later, the party backtracked and said debate on the snap vote’s timing was premature and such ballot could only take place if the government collapsed or the coalition became inoperable.

— With assistance by Peter Laca

(Updates with date of confidence vote in sixth paragraph, bonds in 10th.)
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