In the midst of the slow summer season, the ruling coalition has found itself in the epicentre of the biggest quake it has experienced so far. Here are facts that can help you understand what is happening.
1. Who started the crisis?
Parliament Speaker Andrej Danko, leader of the junior coalition Slovak National Party (SNS), sent a letter to his partners in the ruling coalition, Robert Fico of Smer and Béla Bugár of Most-Híd, officially withdrawing from the coalition agreement less than one year after its signing.
2. When did the crisis break out?
The decision to shake up the ruling coalition came in the midst of a major scandal the Education Ministry has been going through for a few weeks now. The ministry, led by SNS nominee Peter Plavčan, has been accused of mishandling money from EU funds for research and innovation. The ministry faces suspicions of manipulating the distribution of money from EU funds, amounting to almost €600 million within two calls for projects. Of great suspicion is that none of the Slovak universities has received money for their long-term projects; another problem is that some companies who have been granted funding only changed their focus of operations in the Business Register shortly before responding to the call. There have also been corruption allegations. The police are checking on the case, and so is the European Commission.
3. Why did Danko do it?
Danko is officially stating “the favourable socio-economic situation” and “the need to focus on new challenges and priorities”, as he wrote in the letter. He prompted his partners to redefine the coalition agreement accordingly. Observers however, see his move as an attempt with two aims: to gain more power in the ruling coalition, possibly by redefining the cabinet and maybe exchanging some ministers; and to distract the public’s attention from the scandal with EU funds at the Education Ministry. In any case, Danko’s move has come out of the blue and political analysts agree that the SNS leader probably overestimated the situation – and that he is acting like an amateur in politics.
4. Where do we go from here?
The coalition agreement does not have much binding force. It is not a constitutional document or anything of the kind. In this sense, SNS’ withdrawal does not automatically mean the government should fall or that early elections are likely. None of the local observers in fact expect things to go that far. At the same time, however, political analysts point to the damaging effect the situation has on trust in the coalition, and the trust of voters in the stability of the government, which the prime minister keeps stressing as its main advantage. The most likely scenarios now include a reshuffling of the distribution of ministerial posts within the cabinet (which could also mean the removal of Minister Plavčan from his post), and rewriting the coalition agreement.
5. What do the coalition partners say?
In response to the crisis Fico of Smer convened a coalition council for Tuesday, August 8. He called Danko’s step absurd. Politicians of the third coalition partner as well, Most-Híd, said they did not understand what had led Danko to withdrawing from the coalition agreement. Most-Híd’s chairman Bugár called the situation serious and said they expect Danko to explain himself. Following the August 8 coalition council meeting, Bugár stated on behalf of all three partners that "there is no alternative to the current ruling coalition”. The coalition leaders are ready to continue in talks. Their next meeting will take place on Friday, August 11.
8. Aug 2017 at 13:57 | Michaela Terenzani