Sunday

27th May 2018

Slovakia on brink of elections after journalist murder

  • Up to 20,000 joined public vigil in Bratislava on Friday (Photo: Peter Tkac)

The Slovak president has joined calls for snap elections in reaction to the murder of a journalist.

Slovakia should either carry out an "extensive and radical reconstruction" of its government or hold "early elections, which would be the most natural solution in many democratic countries," the president, Andrej Kiska, said on TV on Sunday (4 March).

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  • Friday's protest was peaceful, but Kiska spoke of a 'crisis of trust' (Photo: Peter Tkac)

He said the murder had created "enormous mistrust" in the state and its law enforcement bodies.

But he said the government of prime minister Robert Fico had done nothing to reassure people over the past week.

"This mistrust is justified. Boundaries have been crossed … Something bad is under the surface, something bad is at the very foundations of our state," Kiska said.

"I don't see any plan to bring the country out of the crisis of trust," he said.

He spoke after leading a mass vigil in Bratislava on Friday for the slain reporter, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, who was also killed.

The president's unscheduled TV statement drew the prime minister's swift rebuke.

Fico accused Kiska of "lining up with the opposition" and of acting in bad taste.

"We're not going to dance on the graves of these two young people," Fico said.

The prime minister added that the president had no power to dissolve the government.

"If there needs to be a change of government, that will be the result of agreement within the coalition and, in that case, the constitution of the Republic of Slovakia foresees no role for the president," Fico said.

The murder has created suspicion that an Italian organised crime group, the Ndrangheta, had its tentacles in Fico's government and in possible fraud of EU subsidies to Slovakia.

Slovak police detained seven people in the aftermath of the killing, but released them over the weekend.

Under the Slovak constitution, three-fifths of MPs must vote to trigger an early election.

Thirty MPs can also trigger a no-confidence motion that Fico's government would have to win by an absolute majority of at least 76 votes in the 150-seat parliament.

Most-Hid, a junior party in Fico's coalition, had already threatened to walk away over the scandal.

It said on Sunday he had until 12 March to sack his interior minister, or risk losing his parliamentary majority.

Up to 20,000 people gathered at the vigil in Bratislava on Friday, where the slain journalist's family and some protesters also called for Fico to step down.

The killing was the second high-profile murder of a journalist in an EU state after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October.

Reporters Without Borders, a French NGO, said in a statement that some EU leaders had created an "appalling climate for journalists" to work in.

It drew attention to the fact that Fico had, in a previous corruption affair, referred to journalists as "dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes", "hyenas" and "snakes".

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