Slovak minister quits as PM tries to save government

12 Mar 2018, 17:16


Bratislava: Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak resigned on Monday, bowing to the demands of a junior coalition partner, as Prime Minister Robert Fico fights to save his government after mass protests following a journalist’s murder.

Fico is seeking to keep his coalition government together after the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak shook the nation and saw the biggest street protests in decades on Friday.

Kuciak investigated fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen. His death has stoked public anger over corruption.

Junior government party, the Most-Hid (Bridge) group, had demanded Fico dismiss Kalinak, a founding member of Fico’s Smer party, by Monday.

Critics say Kalinak, who oversaw the police as interior minister, could not guarantee an independent investigation into the killing of Kuciak and his fiancee in late February.

Most-Hid’s leadership will meet on Monday. The party welcomed the resignation although its leader, Bela Bugar, declined to comment when asked whether it would be enough for his party to remain in the coalition.

‘The national council always decides... In such cases it has the final word,’ Bugar told reporters.

Kalinak told a news conference he made his decision independently.

‘It’s important for stability to be maintained, therefore I decided to resign the post of deputy prime minister and interior minister,’ Kalinak said.

‘I think I will do more for the investigators not to be disturbed in their work if I resign,’ he said.

Fico had resisted getting rid of Kalinak but, worried over losing Most-Hid’s support, last week said he was ready to offer solutions to keep their support.

In the largest demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989, an estimated 50,000 people rallied in the capital Bratislava on Friday and thousands more in other cities, demanding the resignation of Fico’s cabinet and a thorough investigation of Kuciak’s death.

Before he was shot dead, Kuciak had been investigating Italian businessmen in Slovakia with suspected mafia links. One of the Italians that Kuciak wrote about had co-owned firms with two Slovaks who went on to work in Fico’s office.

Both have resigned but deny links to the murder. Their Italian former business partner denies connections to the mafia. No one has been charged over the killings.

In the past, Kuciak had also written about a real estate developer investigated for tax fraud who had business ties to Kalinak. Both have denied wrongdoing.