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MINISTER FRONC LOSES CONFIDENCE VOTE AFTER NEW CITIZEN'S ALLIANCE ABSTAINS

Coalition crisis?

EDUCATION Minister Martin Fronc no longer enjoys the parliament's trust.
During a confidence vote on May 25, 59 deputies out of 124 backed Fronc, with 56 voting against. Members of the liberal coalition party, the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), left the parliament hall during the vote, unwilling to support either the opposition, which initiated the vote, or the coalition and Fronc.

EDUCATION Minister Martin Fronc no longer enjoys the parliament's trust.

During a confidence vote on May 25, 59 deputies out of 124 backed Fronc, with 56 voting against. Members of the liberal coalition party, the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), left the parliament hall during the vote, unwilling to support either the opposition, which initiated the vote, or the coalition and Fronc.

The result of the confidence vote has no legal consequences and does not require the minister to leave his post.

Pavol Hrušovský, chairmain of the ruling Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) party, suggested that the situation could culminate in early elections. The KDH blames a rift in the coalition on the ANO.

"The ANO, with its unscrupulous policies, has greatly contributed to this situation," said Hrušovský.

In order for early elections to take place, however, 90 MPs would have to support shortening the current election term, which is unrealistic according to ANO Deputy Chairman Ľubomír Lintner.

A political scientist with the Institute for Public Affairs, Grigorij Mesežnikov says that relations within the ruling coalition parties have been lacking mutual trust for a long time.

"What is happening now is only a natural continuation of the previous state. But in fact, this ruling coalition still has a chance to complete the election term. All the other options are less acceptable for them," Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. He added, "Despite the strong words that the KDH is now using against the ANO, I do not think that the situation will result in the fall of the cabinet."

According to Mesežnikov, a minister's resignation should be the result of a no-confidence motion. The vote brought before the parliament by the opposition party, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), was one of confidence, which is not legally binding for Fronc.

"This vote creates certain political pressure, but it does not mean a no-confidence motion," Mesežnikov said.

Given the ruling coalition's minority in parliament, however, the analyst believes that the opposition could use the current rift in the coalition to push through various no-confidence votes.

A possible recall of Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, who is the ANO chairman, is being speculated on in the back halls of parliament. Allegedly, the KDH plans cooperate with the opposition to remove Rusko from the ministry.

HZDS Deputy Katarína Tóthová proposed the vote of confidence for Fronc after she was unsatisfied with the minister's response to a question regarding state permission for private university activities.

The ruling coalition will try to iron out its creases at its upcoming meeting.

Early elections is the last thing that the country needs, according to Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda. His government has launched several ambitious reforms that many feel are just starting to show results.

"Slovakia is facing a lot of hard work and the focus should be directed at this work. We should fine-tune the reforms, to make sure that they bring concrete results. Thus I would be extremely happy if the situation calms down," Martin Maruška, the PM's spokesperson, told the news agency SITA on Dzurinda's behalf. The prime minister is currently in Japan.

Relations between the KDH and the ANO have never been peaceful. The parties have clashed repeatedly over various issues, from Slovakia's treaty with the Vatican to abortion, the banning of which is high on the KDH agenda.

The ANO has been calling on Minister Fronc to resign but stressed that the party would not vote in line with the opposition to recall Fronc.

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