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How to Go on, Slovakia? by Péter Szitás

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How to Go on, Slovakia?

Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia

Photo: shutterstock

The government of the Slovak Republic is again on the verge of a crisis. Even though the four coalition parties have a constitutional majority in the National Council, their cooperation has been chaperoned by debates, scandals, and spectacular disagreements from the outset of their term.  Barely a year after the parliamentary elections held in February 2020, the government went through a severe crisis that resulted in a change of the Prime Minister. The official reason for the discharge of Igor Matovič was that some coalition partners found the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine’s undisclosed procurement inadmissible.[1] Liberals considered the acquisition unforgivable. They demanded a sacrifice, even though the purchase occurred at the time when the SARS-CoV-2 Covid-19 pandemic was raging throughout the world and even though there were not enough Western vaccines available in Europe, especially in Slovakia. 

The country is watching live how dazzlingly the official governmental allies are working to weaken each other’s positions both within the gates of the parliament and beyond it

The Prime Minister had to step down and change office with his partisan comrade Eduard Heger, the then Minister of Finance. Disagreements and differences of opinion within the coalition have been spectacular at the time ever since. It is astonishing how the ex-premier, at the moment Minister of Finance Igor Matovič, who is also the leader of the party OĽANO (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities), is having constant confrontations with the Minister of Economy and head of the liberal party SAS (Freedom and Solidarity) Richard Sulík. The country is watching live how dazzlingly the official governmental allies, who even started their careers at the same political party, are working to weaken each other’s positions both within the gates of the parliament and beyond it. Meanwhile, the opposition is growing stronger and louder.

The idea that a majority vote could be lost, even in the position of a constitutional preponderance, actualised in May when the Slovak National Council decided to lift the immunity of the former, three-term Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico. While the chairman of the opposition party SMER-SD (Direction – Social Democracy) is suspected of committing several crimes –– establishing and aiding a criminal association, and repeated violations of official authority –– he claims that the whole case is only a political attempt to liquidate the political opposition.[2] Since the change of the cabinet in 2020 there has been a serious effort from the new Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the suspicious cases of recent decades. The opposition sees the procedure as a witch-hunt by which the coalition is trying to disguise its own inability to govern. As a matter of fact, it is not a secret that Fico disclosed confidential information about the tax affairs of the former head of state Andrej Kiska and Igor Matovič as well. Whether this is a sufficient reason for pre-trial detention is still unclear.

Whether or not the coalition is incompetent to lead the country, it is baffling that the government has failed to obtain a majority for the indictment that would have suspended the former prime minister’s immunity and made it possible for him to be taken into custody. Surprisingly, the motion did not pass, although a simple majority — 76 votes out of the 150 — would have been enough. The government’s proposition was supported only by 74 MPs since, in addition to two representatives of OĽANO, the Speaker of the Parliament, Boris Kollár’s party Sme Rodina (“We are the Family”) due to involvement, did not back the resolution. Romana Tabák, one of the two MPs of OĽANO who did not support the proposal, said it was the right decision for parliamentarism. As she put it: ‘I refuse to engage in political revenge. She and the other violator of the faction discipline were expelled from the party.’[3] The failure to put Fico behind bars is perceived by many as the personal defeat of Igor Matovič. 

As an outcome of the voting, Robert Fico does not have to fear remand in custody

As an outcome of the voting, Robert Fico does not have to fear remand in custody. He may appear as a victim to the domestic and international public, who is to be silenced for his opinion. The same applies to the country’s former Minister of Interior, Fico’s old ally, Róbert Kaliňák, who was arrested by the National Law Enforcement Agency (NAKA) in April[4], but has already been released, due to the verdict of the Senate of the Supreme Court, which did not find grounds for collusive detention for the ex-minister.[5]

Whether or not the allegations are correct is a matter for the court to decide. However, the opposition is growing at the political level and demanding early elections. According to Matovič, the coalition may fall in the Autumn. Sulík considers this differently: there is no reason for the government’s fall but the replacement of the Minister of Finance.[6]

Meanwhile, war is raging in Slovakia’s neighbourhoods, inflation has erupted, and the future is uncertain. The country is looking forward to sweltering times. 

Péter Szitás, researcher at Danube Institute

[1] REUTERS: Two ruling Slovak parties demand PM Matovic quit as Sputnik deal shakes coalition <03/15/2021> Access: (05/31/2022)

[2] Gábor Czímer: Fico szerint a rendőrség politikai okokból akarja letartóztatni <05/01/2022> Access: (05/31/2022)

[3] Anna Bugár: Újabb koalíciós válság a láthatáron <05/05/2022> Access: (05/31/2022)

[4] Monika Todóva: NAKA zadržala Roberta Kaliňáka. Spolu s Ficom ich obvinili zo založenia zločineckej skupiny <04/20/2022> Access: (05/31/2022)

[5] Katarína Kiśśova: Roberta Kaliňáka pustili na slobodu. Tu sú jeho prvé slová po prepustení <05/13/2022> Access: (05/31/2022) 

[6] PRAVDA.SK: Matovič predpovedá koniec koalície na jeseň. Nie je dôvod na pád vlády, ale na výmenu ministra financií, odkazujú mu sulíkovci <05/31/2022> Access: (05/31/2022)