Slovak president raises pressure on Smer as he urges government to tackle corruption

By bne IntelliNews June 16, 2016

The failure of the Slovak government to effectively fight corruption has eroded support, and pushed the public’s trust in state institutions and politicians to historical lows, President Andrej Kiska asserted on June 16 as he delivered his annual 'State of the Nation' speech to lawmakers.

The president urged the government to investigate corruption cases involving political figures as a way to avert the rise of far right parties. The speech was a clear reference to the ongoing pressure on Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, who is in the midst of a tax fraud scandal.

It also taps into the wider concerns of Kalinak's coalition-leading party. Following a previous term rife with claims of graft, Prime Minister Robert Fico recently expressed genuine surprise that elections in March saw neo-nazi parties enter parliament. The PM also appears oblivious to the fact that his Smer party spent months of the campaign stoking fears of immigration.

“The trust of people in the state has fallen to new historical lows,” Kiska - who has established himself as the liberal antidote to the populist Fico - declared. He added that if this trend continues “it may be problematic, if not impossible, to form a government of any democratic political parties after the next elections,” according to TASR.

The speech didn't take long to upset the fringe elements in the lower house. MPs of the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) walked out early in the session. LSNS managed to win seats in the parliament for the first time in the March elections, gaining 8% of the vote.

Kiska comments were also likely meant to increase the pressure on Kalinak. The president said that taking political responsibility for scandals is not the solution to cases, but “an ordinary gesture of decency which should calm down the public and enable the work of respective institutions.” That was a clear reference that he thinks the interior minister should fall on his sword, or be pushed onto it by Smer.

Fico, however, will not want to lose Kalinak, who has been his right hand man since he founded the party. Also, Kalinak’s departure would add to questions about the stability of the already uneasy four-party governing coalition just as Slovakia prepares to take over as president of the EU Council in July.   

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