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Fate of cabinet still unclear (UPDATED)

SLOVAKIA will have to wait a little longer for answers to questions that have been resonating through its society since October 11, when the cabinet of Iveta Radičová collapsed: will the current government rule until March 10, the date set for early elections, or will a different caretaker cabinet be appointed? Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič met with leaders of parliamentary parties on October 17, but after a one-and-a-half-hour talk they parted without definite answers. The parties will meet again on October 20 to make another attempt to reach an accord.

SLOVAKIA will have to wait a little longer for answers to questions that have been resonating through its society since October 11, when the cabinet of Iveta Radičová collapsed: will the current government rule until March 10, the date set for early elections, or will a different caretaker cabinet be appointed? Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič met with leaders of parliamentary parties on October 17, but after a one-and-a-half-hour talk they parted without definite answers. The parties will meet again on October 20 to make another attempt to reach an accord.

The leaders of parliamentary parties remained tight-lipped both about the meeting and the prospects of the Iveta Radičová team.

“We will continue with the negotiations,” said Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) boss Mikuláš Dzurinda, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The president had earlier stated that he would look into whether any one of the leaders is able to form a majority government, or even a minority government. The option that the president appoints a caretaker government is still in play too.

Robert Fico’s opposition party Smer announced on October 14 that it would be unwilling to give its support to any government reconstructed from the parties of the current ruling coalition, or to a caretaker government. The option Fico supports is that the current government rules until March – he called this possibility, which would involve the Radičová cabinet ruling without the ministers appointed by the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, the politically cleanest decision.

“Such a government would not have to stand in front of parliament and ask for confidence in and agreement with the government’s [new] programme statement,” said Fico, adding that his party is not interested in entering any reconstructed government, SITA reported.

The country’s constitution stipulates that if parliament fails to produce a confidence vote in the cabinet, then the head of the state, in this case the president, ought to recall the cabinet. However, the highest law of the country does not set a deadline by which the president must do so.

Another important question facing the country’s leaders is who will represent Slovakia at the next summit of the European Council, involving member states of the Eurozone. Originally, the Slovak delegation was to have been led by Radičová. The Foreign Affairs Ministry, which is led by Mikuláš Dzurinda (a member of Radičová’s SDKÚ), is proposing that she still leads the delegation.

However, Gašparovič did not invite Radičová to the meeting of party leaders held on October 17. Moreover, it is not Radičová but Dzurinda who is negotiating on behalf of the SDKÚ the survival of the cabinet in the period before the early elections, according to Sme daily.

According to the portal topky.sk, Dzurinda offered a number of compromises to SaS leader Richard Sulík in exchange for his support: ministers from Sulík’s party would not have to quit the cabinet, Sulík would be reinstated as parliamentary speaker and the coalition would give support to Kamil Krnáč's (SaS) candidacy for the head of the National Security Office. Sulík admitted that they had met but both actors were tight-lipped about the content of the talks, Sme wrote.

On the other hand, the three coalition parties ultimately may not require Sulík 's help, according to Sme.

The ruling coalition parties have also been continuing their media discourse over who is to blame for the fall of the government.

SaS boss Richard Sulík, in a televised debate on the public service network Slovak Television (STV), restated that blame does not rest with his party for their voting decision in the crucial EFSF vote. Although it was this vote that led to the government’s dissolution, Sulík pins the blame on Radičová’s decision to link the bailout vote with a confidence vote despite the fact she had previously – according to Sulík – promised she would not do so. Sulík has described the move as blackmail.

Giving the contrary view in the same STV debate, the leader of the ruling coalition’s Most-Híd party Béla Bugár argued that the two-in-one vote was intended as an offer of compromise to the SaS. It allowed them to say they remained firmly against the European bailout but were not willing to bring down the government, and so vote in favour of the changes to the EFSF. Bugár insisted that his SaS colleagues misunderstood the reason for tying together the two votes, which in fact gave them the opportunity to “save their own face”, SITA reported.

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