AFTER a long and heated debate the Slovak parliament rejected changes to the European bailout mechanism, the EFSF. Of 124 deputies present only 55 voted for the changes while the government needed 76 votes to produce a “yes” vote.
Prime Minister Iveta Radičová announced earlier on October 11 that the bailout vote would be tied to a no-confidence vote on her government, following the rejection of her final compromise proposal by the coalition’s junior member, the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party.
Slovakia is the only country not to have approved the enlargement of the Eurozone bailout fund.
Even a last-minute appeal from Radičová performed shortly before the vote failed to alter the attitudes of the SaS deputies.
“I am asking you to express confidence in this government, to demonstrate that you agree it is handling the public finances responsibly and would not for a moment mishandle the money earned by hard-working taxpayers,” Radičová said, as quoted by Sme daily. “The trustworthiness of Slovakia is the most valuable thing that we have to offer.”
The SaS, though, have not backed down from their position. SaS boss Richard Sulík stated after the vote that he regretted the fact it took so long for his ruling coalition partners to realise his party would keep to what he called a principled stand against the European bailout fund.
“For us, a clear conscience with our children is more important than anything else and so we decided not to attend the vote,” Sulík said.
The ruling coalition partners including the prime minister have called on ministers nominated by the SaS to resign from their posts.
The government still aims to get the changes to the bailout mechanism approved and is now preparing to hold talks with the largest opposition party, Smer. However, opposition leader Robert Fico warned that the ruling coalition has failed to demonstrate its ability to rule.
“I do not recall a situation in which a vote in parliament was joined with a vote of confidence and the government fell as a result,” Fico said, as quoted by Sme.
Nevertheless, Fico said he was ready for proposals from the ruling coalition parties and that he is open to negotiations on another vote on the bailout. Fico has stated several times that he supports the idea of the bailout mechanism.
The coalition has assigned the chairman of Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) Mikuláš Dzurinda the role of leading talks with Fico over his party's support for the bailout.