The two-month quarrel between the rightwing Slovak coalition's OLaNO and SaS parties culminated on Monday with the resignations of the remaining SaS ministers.
The coalition crisis shows the stresses created by the ongoing cost of living crisis, even though the roots of the dispute are in a personal rift between two cabinet ministers. The collapse of the coalition also demonstrates the continuing inability of the Slovak rightwing to unite against the populist opposition.
The government will now in reality be a tandem of two personal populist parties, Matovic's anti-corruption movement OLaNO, and Boris Kollar’s radical rightwing force, We are Family, which sits with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in the European Parliament.
Minister of Economy and SaS chairman Richard Sulik stepped down last Wednesday, calling on OLaNO’s chairman and Minister of Finance Igor Matovic to do the same in order to preserve Eduard Heger’s (OLaNO) coalition cabinet.
Sulik argued that it was impossible to continue co-operation with Matovic as finance minister because of the way he made up policy without discussing it with his coalition partners, and then went behind their backs to push it through parliament with the help of opposition parties.
Matovic argued that SaS is to blame for failing to guarantee the backing of OLaNO’s 10-point proposal of policy measures to combat the energy crisis.
“What Slovakia is experiencing under the leadership of Igor Matovic cannot be called anything else but disintegration,” said Sulik when opening his press conference. SaS did not rule out returning to the coalition, but only if Matovic is not part of it.
“The actions of Igor Matovic and mainly his manner of pursuing politics leads to conflicts and tensions”, explained Ivan Korcok, the outgoing minister of foreign affairs.
Heger’s cabinet will now be backed by a minority of 67 deputies in the parliament of 150. It is to face a tough autumn, including simple procedures such as opening parliamentary debates for which 76 deputies are needed.
Heger said that his cabinet will rely on “democratic parliamentarians” in pursuit of its agenda. Together with independents who have left other parties, the coalition may be able to rely on 70 votes, still leaving it six short of a majority.
The SaS has pledged to support the government when it continues to follow the programme it signed up to, but Matovic will struggle to push through his 2023 budget, given that it contains items that SaS has objected to.
"We will be a constructive but tough opposition," Sulik said, adding the party would back government proposals in parliament selectively, Reuters reported.
Slovakia is beginning to feel the burden of the energy crisis, with a large percentage of pensioners at risk of falling into poverty, and other vulnerable parts of the population awaiting much discussed relief aid from the government.
In the meantime, the rising costs of living are preyed upon by populist and extremist opposition parties, most vocally the Smer party of ex-premier Robert Fico who faces criminal charges and eyes a return to frontline politics. Smer has collected enough signatures to hold a referendum on bringing forward the next general election from September 2024, though the legitimacy of the question will likely be examined by the Constitutional Court.