Five outcomes of the coalition talks: Government might still go down

Coalition leaders announce they will stick together, but just a few hours later SNS’ demand to oust Smer’s labour minister transpired. Fico does not seem ready to give him up.

Bugár, Danko, Fico (left to right) finally met on August 25. They smiled into the cameras even though they did not resolve all their issues. Bugár, Danko, Fico (left to right) finally met on August 25. They smiled into the cameras even though they did not resolve all their issues. (Source: Sme)

Robert Fico of Smer, Andrej Danko of the Slovak National Party (SNS), and Béla Bugár of Most-Híd met on August 25 to talk about the damaged relationships among their coalition triad.

The meeting was expected to resolve the crisis the coalition had been in for two weeks, since Danko sent a letter to his partners withdrawing from the coalition agreement.

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The three leaders’ talks had been repeatedly postponed over the past two weeks as the tension built up among the coalition partners. Based on media reports, Danko and Fico only communicated through text messages - and through the media.

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But on Friday after their talks, Fico, Danko, and Bugár stood side by side in front of the cameras with smiles. Fico claimed their discussion was “long, serious, constructive and good”, as quoted by the Sme daily.

“I’m a practical man and if the chemistry is not working, I’m not able to work,” Danko told journalists following the meeting, stressing that the leaders straighten out their communication at the human level.

Here is what the coalition parties have agreed on:

1. They want to celebrate the Constitution

The three partners are determined to organise celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Slovak Constitution’s signing on September 1 “in the spirit of cooperation between all three parties”, as Fico said. Constitution Day is usually marked with an open day in parliament in Slovakia. This year is special due to the 25th anniversary, and the open day will be followed by a 70-minute gala programme. The whole event is to cost almost €100,000.

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Read also: It’s not easy to be friends with Fico Read more 

2. They will put together a working group

Each party will delegate one person to the group who will work together on the addendum to the coalition agreement. The addendum should also bind the regional and district structures of the coalition parties to communicating together. It should also determine how the coalition parties will deal with conflicts in the future. Fico said he would like the coalition to sign the new deal on the occasion of Constitution Day, on Friday September 1, Sme reported.

3. They will adjust the state budget

Every party will submit their priorities for the state budget, in line with their party programmes. While the three partners all claim they acknowledge the obligation of maintaining fiscal discipline, they want to take steps to increase the living standards of citizens.

One of Danko’s demands in the letter sent to his coalition partners concerned withdrawal from the coalition agreement. He wrote that he wanted the coalition programme to reflect the good performance of Slovakia’s economy. The coalition has not yet revealed details in this regard, but the most discussed economic issue in the run up to the coalition meeting was the introduction of a tax-free 13th and 14th salary on the voluntary basis.

Read also: Danko’s time-out did not help Read more 

4. They will make Monday their day

The leaders of the three coalition parties want to meet regularly and have decided to hold regular coalition meetings every Monday. They have also agreed on not communicating through the media, Bugár told Sme.

5. They might still stumble upon the labour minister, though

“I believe none of the ministers is worth bringing down this government,” Danko said following the meeting. Personnel issues shall not bring about discord among the coalition partners, he stressed. Education Minister Peter Plavčan, an SNS nominee, resigned from his post (as of August 31) in the course of the crisis. This was due to a scandal regarding the distribution of the EU funds from his ministry.

But only a few hours after the press conference among the three coalition leaders, the SITA newswire reported that Danko and his SNS were demanding the head of Labour Minister Ján Richter and would be willing to carry out a vote to recall him even if it meant the government’s collapse.

Danko announced this request to his partners at the August 25 meeting and admitted that his party was ready to join the opposition MPs in their efforts to oust Richter, the SITA newswire reported. The reason is his involvement in the Čistý Deň resocialisation centre scandal.

Read also: Controversial resocialisation centre loses accreditation Read more 

In turn, Fico reportedly said that he was ready to merge the vote on Richter with the no-confidence vote in the whole government. Danko and his party are going to vote against Richter anyway, SITA reported, citing “several coalition representatives”.

The opposition is expected to file the proposal to vote on Richter in the course of this week.

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