Slovakia's Ordinary PM takes over amid coronavirus crisis

The president appointed the cabinet of Igor Matovič on March 21.

(Source: TASR)

Slovakia has a new prime minister. Igor Matovič and his cabinet of ministers took over from Peter Pellegrini amid the biggest public health crisis Slovakia and the world has ever seen.

"The times and the situation are so serious that we cannot afford to have any other government than one that honours the constitution," President Zuzana Čaputová told the ministers after they were appointed. She told them to be wise and unifying.

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She called on the government and the whole country to act as a coherent and compassionate community.

"We must lead the country through this difficult time," she said.

She acknowledged the people of Slovakia elected the government to make fundamental changes, but first the government must make sure they protect the lives of as many people as possible.

The only member of the incoming cabinet who was missing was the future foreign affairs minister Ivan Korčok, who currently serves as Slovakia's ambassador to the US.

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After his return to Slovakia, Korčok will be appointed and will take over the ministry. Until then, the president appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Richard Sulík to be the acting foreign affairs minister. Sulík is the leader of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party which nominated Korčok for the post.

Matovič: We have a remedy for the coronavirus

The newly-appointed prime minister thanked the president and his predecessors, and mainly the people who came to vote.

"Our common dream and our promise is a Slovakia where everyone is equal in front of the law," Matovič said. He also mentioned the importance of solidarity with the ill, the weak, the poor, and with national minorities.

He pledged his government will govern openly and always tell "the full truth" to the people, all the while listening to them.

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Matovič noted that Slovakia at this point has many problems, mainly the lack of trust in the state. But the historically biggest challenge is now the pandemic, Matovič said.

"We have a remedy for the coronavirus. It is the solidarity, responsibility, and determination of the people who care about Slovakia," Matovič said in his address to the country immediately after his appointment.

Coalition agreement signed

Before the new government was appointed, Igor Matovič (OĽaNO), Boris Kollár (Sme Rodina), Richard Sulík (SaS), and Veronika Remišová (Za ľudí) met at Bratislava Castle to sign a coalition agreement on March 21 shortly before noon.

Igor Matovič told the media after signing it that it is “a good coalition agreement” that will help the coalition fulfil pre-election promises.

Veronika Remišová claimed that the coalition agreement was not born in a time of safety, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. The Za ľudí party will be a responsible and stable part of the coalition, she said.

People expect from us firm acts, said Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár. He called for empathy and discipline when dealing with the pandemic.

“It is possible to govern the country decently,” said Richard Sulík, emphasising the expertise of the nominated people.

The coalition agreement will be accessible in a week; Matovič wants every coalition MP to sign it first.

Pellegrini stepped down on Friday

Following the founding session of the parliament on Friday, March 20, President Zuzana Čaputová received PM Peter Pellegrini in the Presidential Palace to accept the demission of his government. She thanked Pellegrini and acknowledged that several positive changes happened under his watch.

Both the president and the outgoing prime minister highlighted their constructive relationship.

Pellegrini took over from Smer chairman Robert Fico in March 2018, when Fico was forced to step down following massive street protests in reaction to the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. At the same time, she expressed regret that the government did not manage to prevent the dividing lines in society and the abuse of justice, which has led to a lack of trust in the judiciary. She added that no major changes have been made to ensure the prosperity of the country.

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Čaputová appreciated how Pellegrini cabinet's reacted to the coronavirus situation in Slovakia and how Pellegrini managed to get "on the same page" with his successor, Igor Matovič.

Pellegrini said it was an honour to be at the helm of the government, both in good and harder times.

"Every day we worked as we could to improve life in Slovakia," he said, as quoted by the Sme daily.

Smer will nominate Pellegrini to serve as the deputy parliament's speaker, the highest constitutional post that the parliamentary opposition gets for the starting term, as is the tradition in Slovakia.

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