Slovak coalition government loses majority following resignation of ministers

Ministers from the Slovak centre-right Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party resigned on Monday, leaving the coalition government short of a majority in the midst of an energy crisis and conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.

The resignations cast doubt over the long term survival of the NATO and European Union member country’s centre-right cabinet, which is trying to tackle soaring energy prices and has strongly backed Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

The government crisis has simmered since SaS demanded in July that Finance Minister Igor Matovic, from the ruling OLANO party, step down after he leaned on lawmakers from a far-right opposition party to push through a bill aimed at helping people hit by inflation, especially in energy.

OLANO has refused the SaS demands and SaS leader Richard Sulik said that made its continued government role untenable.

“We have to say that this is no longer possible,” Sulik told a televised briefing in announcing the resignations.

“We will be a constructive but tough opposition,” he said, adding the party would back government proposals in parliament selectively.

SaS had four ministers, including Sulik as economy minister.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the government would serve as a minority administration. He said he would inform the president of changes in the cabinet before announcing them next week, according to TASR news agency.

The SaS departures eliminate the government’s comfortable majority, leaving it around 70 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

That will complicate lawmaking and could eventually lead to its fall in a possible no-confidence motion. This could then lead to early election, although there is no easy path to snap polls under the Slovak constitution.

Sulik and Matovic have often clashed in the past.

Matovic was prime minister when the government took power in 2020 but switched seats with Heger last year to cool a row after he bought Russian coronavirus vaccines without consulting coalition partners.

Slovakia has been a strong backer of neighbouring Ukraine under the current government, which has supplied weapons including artillery and anti-aircraft systems.

Some Slovak opposition parties including that led by former prime minister Robert Fico have taken a much more pro-Russian stance in the conflict.

The end of Heger’s majority government is not the first time Sulik triggered political turmoil. In 2011, a government Sulik was part of fell after he rejected an EU scheme meant to secure funding for debt-laden Greece.

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