Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Slovak interior minister resigns after journalist slaying

Slovak interior minister resigns after journalist slaying

Slovakia was thrown into crisis after the murder in late February of a journalist investigating corruption and last week saw the largest street protests since the end of communism almost three decades ago as anger grows over graft allegations.

Since the 2016 parliamentary elections, centre-left Slovak prime minister Robert Fico has relied on the support of the smaller centre-right Most-Hid party, and the right-wing nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS).

Journalist Kuciak's last, unfinished story was about the activities of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and their ties to people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska had also called for early elections - or sweeping government changes - earlier this month, which Fico initially blasted as "an attempt to totally destabilise our country" before backing down last week.

The political fallout following the murder of reporter Jan Kuciak poses the biggest challenge to Fico. Fico's Smer party has long led in opinion polls by a wide margin, gaining voters with a mix of handouts, such as free train tickets for students and pensioners, and controlling the deficit.

Slovakia has prospered in the past decade, joining the euro zone and growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe, but many see Fico as having failed to fight graft and cronyism.

Kuciak focussed on tax fraud involving politically connected businessmen.

Police have said Kuciak's death was "most likely" related to his investigation resulting in an article on ties between Slovakia's top politicians and Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia, which his employer posthumously published. "On September 20th, 2017, New York, Fifth Avenue, I wonder why the head of state of the Slovak Republic went to a private meeting with a man who has a very dubious reputation, and that man is called Mr Soros". No one has been charged in the killings.

Junior ruling party Most-Hid (Bridge) said late on Monday, after more than eight hours of talks, it would seek a deal with coalition parties about leading the country toward a snap election or would leave the government if no agreement was made.

Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak resigned on Monday, bowing to demands of a junior coalition partner which had sought the removal of Prime Minister Robert Fico's close ally amid a political crisis.

"We think that only early elections would solve this situation", said Bela Bugar, chairman of Most-Hid on Monday evening after an eight-hour internal party discussion.

Fico's coalition holds a narrow majority of 78 seats in the 150-member parliament.

For an early election, 90 votes in parliament are needed.

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