Slovakia’s ruling coalition lurched closer to collapse after a junior member threatened to pull its ministers out of the cabinet, depriving it of majority backing in parliament.
The ruling alliance has repeatedly flirted with rupture since winning general elections in 2020 on a pledge to eradicate rampant corruption. Last year, the Freedom and Solidarity party, led by Richard Sulik, orchestrated the ouster of then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic following a disagreement over managing the pandemic.
While the reconstituted cabinet, now led by Premier Eduard Heger, has stumbled along since then, Sulik is now demanding Matovic be removed as finance minister by Aug. 31, otherwise his party will abandon the coalition.
“It’s high time to dismiss the finance minister, because that department is being managed catastrophically,” Sulik said after coalition talks on Saturday. “We are ready to continue in this government only when our demand is fulfilled.”
Sulik accuses Matovic of betraying his ruling partners by pushing a billion-euro ($1.003 billion) subsidy package for families through parliament without sufficient backing, and with the help of far-right lawmakers. Matovic, the leader of the largest ruling party, refuses to leave.
A breakup would cast Heger’s administration into minority status and force him to seek ad-hoc support in parliament to pass laws. His government will have to address the energy crisis in the coming months, approve the 2023 budget, and pass other legislation required for the nation of 5.4 million to draw hundreds of million euros from the European Union’s recovery fund.
A coalition collapse would also expose the government to no-confidence motions led by two opposition groups that now lead opinion polls, and could trigger early elections.
Former Prime Minister Robert Fico has launched a campaign to hold a referendum to oust the government, which President Zuzana Caputova is considering.
Another round of negotiations is planned for Aug. 26, but with neither side showing signs of compromise, and only 11 days until Sulik’s ultimatum, the stakes are rising.