Tomáš Drucker will not dismiss Police Corps President Tibor Gašpar. Instead, he will step down as minister.
Drucker was expected to announce his decision about the dismissal of Gašpar today, on April 16, after a series of delays, the most recent one due to his health condition. Drucker had been hospitalised over the past few days. During the three weeks he served as interior minister, Drucker faced pressure from protesters in the streets who consistently call for the dismissal of Gašpar. He has also faced allegations over his wife's suspicious purchase of land near Trnava. He now says he is leaving because he has not been able to calm the situation, and the polarisation in society persists.
Drucker did not consult his decision with the coalition leaders or the president, he only announced it to PM Peter Pellegrini, who, as he said, acknowledged it but was not very happy about it.
"What matters to me is my personal integrity and if I am expected to make a decision that polarises society, I must take this decision," Drucker explained his resignation.
Drucker claims he opted not to dismiss the police corps president because he has not found any evidence that would speak against Gašpar. He was aware it was possible that Gašpar would not step down despite public pressure.
"I counted on that during my debates with President Kiska," Drucker said, adding that he made it clear that he was not going to take the post of the interior minister in the Pellegrini government if he was expected to immediately dismiss Gašpar.
"I believe my departure is equally significant pressure to lead a debate on these issues," Drucker told journalists.
The exchange of the police corps president would not allow what the new legislation will: a more transparent system of top police officers, not just the president but also his subordinates.
When asked whether Gašpar should leave due to the fact that he polarises society, Drucker admitted that everyone needs to act freely.
"If he has not been able to take that responsibility, I am doing that," Drucker said. He admitted he would have liked to continue as health minister and finish some of the projects he started there.
Drucker is leaving politics altogether, he confirmed.
Gašpar will comment soon
“The decision of the interior minister not to recall me from the post of the Police Corps President and, at the same time, resign from his post, is surprising and unexpected for me,” Gašpar responded, as quoted by the Denník N daily.
He intends to comment on the situation soon.
“The President’s Office will not respond to interior minister’s resignation for now,” said President Andrej Kiska’s spokesperson Roman Krpelan, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
The president said two weeks ago that the only thing he cares about in connection with Gašpar is when the interior minister will recall him.
Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko (Slovak National Party) has taken the decision into account. Since it is an internal matter for Smer, he did not want to comment, the TASR newswire wrote.
The coalition party, Most-Híd, have also taken the decision into account. The party said it considers the proposed changes to the selection and appointment of the police management an important step to restore the trust of people, the Sme daily wrote.
For Veronika Remišová of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), Drucker’s resignation means that Gašpar and the interest groups standing behind him are stronger than the interior minister. This poses a danger for our country and the enforcement of justice, she told SITA.
“Drucker is leaving but the Police Corps president, who has a conflict of interests in the investigation of the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, is staying in his post,” she said, as quoted by SITA, referring to the fact that Kuciak was writing about Gašpar and his family and Nitra-based oligarch Norbert Bödör.
She considers Drucker’s explanation extremely untrustworthy.
Remišová does not think that his resignation will calm down the situation. Instead, the polarisation and distrust in state institutions and the police management will increase, she added for SITA.
Drucker sacrificed the trust in the police
Despite Drucker’s resignation, the organisers of the For a Decent Slovakia rallies insist that Gašpar be recalled, saying that he is “a symbol of failures, the distrust of people in police and scandal”.
“After the resignation of Tomáš Drucker, the question of dismissing Gašpar, the systemic changes in police and police inspection is an absolute responsibility of Mr Pellegrini and the ruling coalition,” they wrote on their Facebook page.
The trust in the police depends on the Police Corps president, stressed the Stop Corruption Foundation.
“We consider it regrettable that by his inactivity Drucker sacrificed the trust in Slovakia’s police, and instead of carrying out inevitable systemic changes he prematurely left the fight,” the foundation said.