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Fico: Kaliňák was the best interior minister

Interior minister, who faced a number of scandals during his career, resigns, but coalition might still fall.

Fico with Kaliňák at a government session.(Source: TASR)

"I understand the departure of Robert Kaliňák first and foremost as his personal contribution to stability, maintaining democracy, and making possible the continuation of positive politics for the people," Prime Minister Robert Fico wrote in his official statement, addressing the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák.

Kaliňák announced on Monday morning that he was resigning from his post. He too stressed the need for stability as the reason why he did so. His resignation was one of the main requirements demanded by tens of thousands of people who came out onto the streets of Slovak towns in what is believed to be the biggest gathering in Slovakia's post-1989 history. The Opposition and Smer's coalition partner, Most-Híd had also been demanding Kalinak's end since last week, in the aftermath of the murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová, as well as the findings published in Kuciak's last, unfinished article.

Read also:UPDATED: Enough of Fico, thousands of people shouted at gatherings across Slovakia

In his statement, Fico stressed that Kaliňák's departure did not come as the result of his failure or the failure of the police to investigate the murder of the two young people and that the investigation remains the priority for the Slovak authorities.

"Robert was one of the most talented ministers in all the governments that I have led," Fico stated.

This is Fico's third term as prime minister. He was first appointed in 2006 and has led the governments ever since, with a short break in 2010-2012. Kalinak served as interior minister in all his governments. Fico thanked Kaliňák for ten years of good work in his department.

"We can thank him for the problem-free introduction of the Schengen rules, fewer road accidents, and the ability to travel visa-free," Fico said.

Read also:Kaliňák survived more than 10 scandals before

Kaliňák faced a number of scandals as minister, some of them went unexplained. The most notable among them is the so-called Bašternák scandal, revolving around the controversial businessman Ladislav Bašternák who is reported to have had links with Kalinak . Since June 2016, when the scandal was first exposed, Kalinak's resignation has been demanded a number of times, including by parliament.

Now that Kaliňák has resigned, many people believe it is no longer enough for only him to leave. Following Kaliňák's resignation, organisers of the For Decent Slovakia gatherings announced another one in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, and Trenčín (other cities are expected to follow suit) on Friday, calling for Fico to resign. The opposition has collected enough signatures under its petition to hold a no-confidence vote in Fico and thus his whole government. Based on Slovak law, Parliament's Speaker Andrej Danko now needs to convene an extraordinary parliamentary session with the no-confidence vote on the programme within seven days.

Danko, chairman of the coalition partner SNS, held a press conference of his own on Monday, March 12, where he admitted early elections were a possibility his party was counting on and stressed his party was a "constructive political party". Most-Híd spent Monday afternoon discussing their future in the ruling coalition.

The party is reported to be split, with some believing they should remain in government with Fico now that Kaliňák has left. Not everyone shares that opinion, including Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská who is reportedly considering her own resignation from the Fico-led government. There is a part of Most-Hid that sees the fall of Robert Fico as the only plausible option, the party's MP Frantiśek Šebej told journalists prior to the session of the party's Republican Council at 2 pm this afternoon.

"I do not think [the resignation of Kalinak] will suffice to secure stability," Róbert Ondrejcsák, Most-Híd nominee in the chair of the Defence Ministry's state secretary, said as quoted by the Sme daily.

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