IN AN unexpected turn of events, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda decided on September 10 to recall Defence Minister Ivan Šimko from his position. His replacement remains unknown.
Šimko, one of the co-founders of Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), was sacked after he refused to abide by party orders to support the withdrawal of Ján Mojžiš, head of the National Security Office (NBÚ), from his post.
"He lost my trust," said Dzurinda. "I do not understand Šimko's voting," he added.
Šimko was the only SDKÚ minister not to vote in favour of Dzurinda's proposal to recall Mojžiš, and only hours later, the party's top body decided Šimko must leave his post, also stripping him of party vice-chairmanship.
"I will always demand discipline and playing by the rules, because otherwise the party cannot bear the responsibility of governing," Dzurinda said.
Out of the 15-member SDKÚ council, 13 people voted in line with Dzurinda's demands; Šimko refused to vote, and deputy speaker of parliament Zuzana Martináková abstained.
"Šimko was a minister who did an excellent job running the ministry," Martináková said.
Šimko, who took over the Defence Ministry following the September 2002 elections, after he led the Interior Ministry, has had the tough job of finishing reforms within the army and preparing the country's military for NATO membership.
Šimko was not pleased with the news.
"I will not try to hide my disappointment at the situation within the SDKÚ, which we launched as free people," he said. However, Šimko, who will now return to parliament, has not announced plans of leaving the party. Rather, he plans to work on reforming it.
Coalition partners have in general been careful in their reactions to the developments, calling them an internal matter of the SDKÚ.
15. Sep 2003 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila