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Smer will rule alone

ROBERT Fico is now set to lead Slovakia’s first one-party government since the end of communism in 1989. After a landslide victory in the March 10 general election which left his Smer party with 83 seats in the 150-seat parliament, thereby giving it a majority of 16 over all other parties, Fico initiated a round-table discussion on March 15 with the other five parties that had cleared the 5-percent threshold to win seats. He initially offered the other parties, which are all from the right, the option of governing with his left-leaning Smer, but all refused. President Ivan Gašparovič therefore charged Fico with forming the next government alone.

ROBERT Fico is now set to lead Slovakia’s first one-party government since the end of communism in 1989. After a landslide victory in the March 10 general election which left his Smer party with 83 seats in the 150-seat parliament, thereby giving it a majority of 16 over all other parties, Fico initiated a round-table discussion on March 15 with the other five parties that had cleared the 5-percent threshold to win seats. He initially offered the other parties, which are all from the right, the option of governing with his left-leaning Smer, but all refused. President Ivan Gašparovič therefore charged Fico with forming the next government alone.

“Smer will constitute the government as a single party,” Fico said at a press conference. “I again thank all citizens for their participation in the election. We have great respect for these results.”

The new government faces some tough challenges, such as continuing the outgoing government’s efforts to repair the crisis-hit public finances in order to push the government deficit under 3 percent of GDP in less than two years, while also addressing the country’s chronically high unemployment rate of 13.3 percent. Scrapping the long-standing flat tax and introducing progressive taxation for higher earners, taxing luxury products, raising bank taxes and restarting some of the public-private partnership (PPP) projects scrapped by the outgoing government are just some of the items on Fico’s menu.

“I do not want to heal the public finances only through taxation, it would not be enough,” said Slovakia’s next prime minister in a post-election televised debate on STV on March 11.

Political analysts have noted that post-communist Slovakia has never had a one-party government, so there is no experience to draw on. Marek Rybář, from the political sciences department at Comenius University, told The Slovak Spectator that internal conflicts in the new government would not be as visible as they tend to be in multi-party coalitions.

On March 15 Smer said it would offer two parliamentary deputy-speaker posts to the opposition, but three parties have expressed an interest: the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) and Most-Híd.

Based on the results of the elections KDH and OĽaNO got 16 seats each, Most-Híd 13 seats, and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) 11 seats each.

Most-Híd leader Béla Bugár said he did not think that OĽaNO’s third place in the election (after Smer and the KDH) entitled it to take the post. He said that it would be realistic for OĽaNO leader Igor Matovič, who has a reputation for being abrasive, to get the post only if he was able to use his brain for at least one year by not offending other MPs. “But that is unrealistic,” Bugár said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Matovič himself played down hopes that he might emerge with the job, hinting instead that he believed Bugár and Fico had already cut a deal. The KDH is likely to get the second deputy-speaker post.

Fico also announced that the opposition parties would get the chance to nominate the chairs of some parliamentary committees, including those overseeing the activities of the SIS intelligence service and the National Security Office (NBÚ), SITA wrote.

At the round-table discussion, the leaders of the parliamentary parties agreed to scrap MPs’ and public officials’ immunity from criminal prosecution, with Fico suggesting that there was absolute harmony over the issue and that the change was likely to get the support of all 150 deputies. There was also agreement on softening the citizenship law so that Slovak citizens with genuine links to a foreign country should not have to lose their Slovak passport when applying for a second citizenship.

The KDH said it would try to reach an agreement with Smer to abolish the so-called Mečiar amnesties, KDH spokesman Matej Kováč told TASR. Last month, parliament rejected a proposal to abolish the amnesties, decreed in 1998 by then-acting president Vladimír Mečiar to cover circumstances surrounding the abduction of the previous president’s son, Michal Kováč Jr, to Austria in 1995.

Fico said that his party was ready to support a parliamentary motion that would condemn the amnesties but not reverse them.

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