50,000 people protest in Bratislava against Slovak PM

50,000 people protest in Bratislava against Slovak PM
Robert Fico is under pressure to reshuffle his cabinet or even step down.
By bne IntelliNews March 12, 2018

Slovakia has experienced the biggest demonstrations since anti-communist marches in 1989, with 50,000 people participating in a demonstration "Let’s stand for decency in Slovakia" in Bratislava on March 9. The demonstrators demanded a thorough investigation of the assassination of journalist Jan Kuciak,and his fiancée, and for the formation of a new government.

“Our whole family got a bullet to the heart,” said Mária Kuciaková, sister of the killed journalist, thanking the participants for coming and showing that they care.

Speeches of representatives of civil society, journalists, teachers, members of medical and cultural associations were supported by the shaking of keys, which is a symbol from the anti-communist demonstrations which eventually led to the fall of the communist regime. Participants were shouting “We do care” and “Enough of Fico”.

Organisers of this demonstration called for a thorough and independent investigation of the murder of Kuciak and Kusnirova with the participation of international teams of investigators, and a new, trustworthy government that will not include people suspected of corruption or links to organised crime.

One of the organisers, Katarina Nagy Pazmany, said that this is just the first step.  “We should not have to ask for this in a decent country,” she added. “In a decent country, this should be a must.”

Pressure on Robert Fico (Smer-SD), Slovak Prime Minister, his friend Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak (Smer-SD) and also on Police President Tibor Gaspar is mounting.

Doubts were raised when information leaked that during the examinations of the bodies of Kuciak and Kusnirova, a pathologist and not a forensic examiner was called. “The presence of a forensic examiner at the crime scene is the most needed and justifiable elementary logic of the investigation itself, said a chairman of the Slovakian Society of the Forensic Examiners Boris Tazky. The Police President justified this choice.

Gaspar was also criticised for the way he informed media and the public about the case and for giving unrelated speculations about the murder. He stopped after Jaromir Ciznar, the General Procurator, put an information embargo on the case.

Moreover, on March 8, a prosecutor of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, Vasil Spirko, lodged a criminal complaint against Robert Kalinak and top police officials including Gaspar related to a separate case B.A. Haus, part of the Basternak tax fraud affair.

Kuciak together with his colleagues had also published articles about the involvement of Smer politicians in this affair, which implicated Kalinak and former industry minister Jan Pociatek.

The political pressure for the formation of a new government or an early election is also very strong and is intensifying. The Slovak National Party is also exerting pressure to replace Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska, from the fellow coalition Most-Hid party. Whether the party will or not officially asked for this will be known on Monday, March 12.

Most-Hid, a centrist largely ethnic Hungarian party, has called for ‘the end’ of Kalinak, although it didn’t mention ‘resignation’ specifically. Most-Hid has also criticised Fico’s speech, in which he accused President Andrej Kiska of conspiring against him with liberal US financier George Soros, in an effort to fend off pressure for a government overhaul or an early election.

"To the Most-Hid party, the words that were voiced at the press conference held by Prime Minister Robert Fico are incomprehensible and unacceptable. Instead of seeking solutions to the developing political situation, the prime minister is seeking a foreign guilty party to blame. The prime minister has chosen a dangerous path from which there might be no return. Therefore, we call on Prime Minister Fico not to make future talks on reconstructing the cabinet impossible with his words," it said.

Fico had a meeting with the head of Most-Hid, Bela Bugar, on Saturday, March 10, after the latter returned from holiday. According to the vice-chairman of Smer-SD and deputy prime minister Peter Pellegrini, the outcome of this meeting should be announced on Monday, March 12.

Pellegrini also said that Smer-SD is prepared some changes in the government. “Smer is ready to take measures leading to the personnel changes in the interest of stability,” said Pellegrini. He also immediately added that this doesn’t mean a resignation of Robert Kalinak.