Slovakia to enter 2023 amid Political Crisis

SLOVAKIA will start 2023 with a provisional budget as parties in parliament could not agree on spending changes aft er the country’s minority centre-right government lost a no-confidence vote. Operating under a provisional budget for about 10 days will hinder using at least some funds earmarked by the euro zone country’s government to assist people hit by soaring energy prices.

In the country’s 150-seat Parliament, 78 lawmakers, two more than the 76 needed, voted to oust the three-party minority government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger. Three coalition lawmakers voted against the government. The liberal Freedom and Solidarity party, which requested the vote, withdrew from the coalition government in September. Freedom and Solidarity head Richard Sulik accused the government of incompetence and losing its anti-corruption drive.

President Zuzana Caputova will have to appoint a new Prime Minister. Several opposition and coalition parties have indicated they would prefer an early election. A two-thirds parliamentary majority would be needed to hold such an election. The vote was the latest step in a long-term political crisis in Slovakia.
Freedom and Solidarity said before its departure from the government that it wasn’t willing to stay because of disagreements with Finance Minister Igor Matovic, a populist leader whose Ordinary People party won the 2020 parliamentary election. After winning the election on an anti-corruption ticket two years ago, Matovic struck a deal to govern with Freedom and Solidarity, the conservative For People party, and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that is allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.

The government made fighting corruption a key policy issue. Since it took power aft er the 2020 general election, a number of senior officials, police officers, judges, prosecutors, politicians and businesspeople have been charged with corruption and other crimes. But amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, the government collapsed as Matovic was forced to resign as Prime Minister after he orchestrated a secret deal to acquire 2 million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine despite disagreement among his coalition partners. The same four parties formed a new government under Heger, who is a close ally of Matovic and the deputy head of his Ordinary People party.

The current Slovak government has been donating arms to the Ukrainian armed forces while opening its border to refugees fleeing the war with Russia. Some current opposition leaders oppose military support for Ukraine and European Union sanctions against Russia.

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