Slovak coalition teeters on the brink again

Slovak coalition teeters on the brink again
“The greatest problem of the coalition is called Igor Matovic [pictured],” SaS leader and Economy Minister Richard Sulik said at a televised news conference.
By Robert Anderson in Prague July 7, 2022

Slovakia’s  Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party has threatened to pull out of the ruling four-party coalition government unless Finance Minister Igor Matovic resigns.

“The greatest problem of the coalition is called Igor Matovic,” SaS leader and Economy Minister Richard Sulik said at a televised news conference, reported news agency TASR. “Looking the other way is no longer possible.”

The SaS has demanded that the OLaNO party leader resign by the end of August or it will withdraw from the coalition. OLaNO has rejected Matovic leaving the government. Without the support of SaS’ 19 MPs, Prime Minister Eduard Heger (also OLANO) would only have 67 seats in the 150-member parliament, forcing him to seek votes from opposition parties to pass each piece of legislation.

Sulik and Matovic have been at loggerheads ever since the coalition was founded in March 2020, over political differences as well as personal animosity. The SaS was the prime mover in forcing Matovic to step down as premier in March 2021 and move to the finance ministry over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matovic has been attaked by the SaS for his emotional, narcisstic and irrational style of governing and in particular the way he makes policy on his own and then announces it on Facebook. The final straw in 2021 was when he secretly procured Russian Sputnik V vaccines despite SaS opposition, and then personally greeted the first shipment’s arrival at Kosice airport.

Since then the in-fighting has repeatedly broken out as Sulik continued to make policy on the hoof, without discussing it with cabinet colleagues. The free market party has particularly objected to the way that, as finance minister, Matovic has  thrown money at every problem that arose.

The SaS was incensed in May when the finance minister used MPs from the neo-fascist LSNS party to push through a bill levying a windfall tax on energy companies and using the revenues to help people hit by high energy prices and soaring inflation.

Following an extraordinary extended SaS republican council on Wednesday, the party said it was withdrawing from the coalition agreement and that it expected Heger to draft a new one that will reflect the current political state of affairs. If this doesn’t happen by the end of August, all SaS-nominated ministers will tender their resignations.

“For the greater good of society, relations within the coalition must change and if the OLaNO is incapable of making the changes, then that task falls to the SaS. We can’t keep governing this way,” said Sulik, adding that the functioning of the coalition is “marred by a single person with self-control issues”.

Sulik said that if OLaNO in turn demanded his resignation, he would consider it at that time.

In a comment posted on Facebook, Heger called for stability, saying the government has started reforms and projects favourable for the country, which need to be completed.