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Archive for the ‘Slovioc Land of Slovakia’ Category

Slovakia’s election winner to form 4-party government

March 14, 2020

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — The chairman of the winning party in Slovakia’s parliamentary election told the country’s president Saturday that he has agreed to form a coalition government with three other parties.

Igor Matovic and his center-right populist opposition group Ordinary People captured 25% of the Feb. 29 vote. It has 53 seats in the 150-seat parliament. President Zuzana Caputova asked Matovic on March 4 to lead the efforts to create a new government.

After their meeting on Saturday, Matovic said he presented the details of his Cabinet to the president. It is not clear when the new government might be sworn in. Caputova didn’t immediately comment. Matovic and Caputova are scheduled to meet again on Monday.

Matovic agreed to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party; the conservative For People, a party established by former President Andrej Kiska; and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that is allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.

The victory for Ordinary People ended the reign of a long-dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party and analysts said that showed a strong desire by voters to end corruption. The Smer-Social Democracy party led by the sitting prime minister, Robert Fico, came in second with 18.3%, or 38 seats. Fico’s party was damaged by political turmoil following the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

The pro-western Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenets of his campaign.

Slovakia’s populists win vote with anti-corruption stance

March 01, 2020

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s center-right populist opposition claimed victory Sunday in the country’s parliamentary election, ending the reign of the long-dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party in a move that analysts said showed a strong desire by voters to end corruption.

According to final results released Sunday by the Statistics Office, the Ordinary People group captured 25% of Saturday’s vote and 53 seats in the 150-seat parliament. The senior ruling leftist Smer-Social Democracy party led by former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico came in second with 18.3% or 38 seats.

The results steered the country to the right and could eventually make a local ally of France’s far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen a part of Slovakia’s governing coalition. “We will try to form the best government Slovakia’s ever had,” Ordinary People chairman Igor Matovic told 2,000 cheering supporters in a sports hall in his hometown of Trnava, northeast of the capital, Bratislava.

The pro-western Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. He is likely to become the country’s next prime minister. Officials measured the temperature of every person coming into the hall due to fears about the new coronavirus. Slovakia hasn’t a single confirmed case yet.

The ruling Smer party has been in power for most of the past 14 years, winning big in every election since 2006 in Slovakia, a European Union nation of almost 5.5 million people in central Europe. The party won 28.3% in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket but it was damaged by political turmoil following the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

The killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, triggered major street protests and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Fico’s three-party coalition government. Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s party.

A new cabinet was made up of ministers from the same three parties. “This was a clear vote against corruption practices of the ruling party, against the links between politicians and semi-mafia in this country and the quest for rule of law,” said Olga Gyarfasova, an analyst from Comenius University in Bratislava.

In a further blow to Smer, its two current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians, didn’t win any seats in Parliament. Matovic is expected to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party, which captured 6.2% support and 13 seats and the conservative For People established by former President Andrej Kiska that finished with 5.8% of the vote and 12 seats.

Although the three parties would have a majority with 78 seats, Matovic said he also wanted to rule with Le Pen’s ally, We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that placed third in Saturday’s vote with 8.2% support and 17 seats.

“I’d like to assure everybody that there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “We’re not here to fight cultural wars.” Matovic is a skilled politician who knows how to make news. In January, he traveled to an upscale neighborhood in Cannes, France, where he placed a poster that read “the property of Slovakia” in front of a luxurious villa that belongs to Jan Pociatek, Fico’s former finance minister. Matovic accused Pociatek of corruption, saying he could never earn so much money to afford the villa. Pociatek denied wrongdoing. A video of the event went viral on social media.

The extreme far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, whose members use Nazi salutes and want Slovakia out of the EU and NATO, became the fourth-most popular party in the country with 8% support and 17 seats. But all other parties have ruled out cooperating with it, for the party backs the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet World War II state.

Associated Press video journalist Jan Gebert in Bratislava contributed.

Slovakia’s populist opposition wins parliamentary election

March 01, 2020

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — The center-right populist opposition claimed victory in the parliamentary election in Slovakia, ending the reign of the country’s long dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party that governed on an anti-immigration platform.

According to nearly complete results released by the Statistics Office early Sunday, the Ordinary People group captured 25% of the vote and 53 seats in the 150-seat parliament in a move that steered the country to the right and could make a local ally of France’s far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen a part of the governing coalition.

“We will try to form the best government Slovakia’s ever had,” Ordinary People chairman Igor Matovic told a cheering crowd of 2,000 supporters in a sports hall in his hometown of Trnava, located northeast of the capital.

Officials measured the temperature of every person coming over the new coronavirus fears. Slovakia hasn’t a single case confirmed yet. The senior ruling leftist Smer-Social Democracy party led by former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico was in second with 18.3% or 38 seats.

Smer has been in power for most of the past 14 years, winning big in every election since 2006. It gained 28.3% in the last election in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket. But the party was damaged by political turmoil following the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

In what would be a further blow for Smer, its two current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians looked like they wouldn’t win any seats. Pro-western Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. An anti-corruption drive has been in his party’s program since he established it 10 years ago.

As the president traditionally asks the election’s winner to try to form a government, he is the likeliest candidate for prime minister. Matovic is expected to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party that made 6.2% (13 seats) and the conservative For People established by former President Andrej Kiska that finished with 5.8% (12 seats).

Although the three would have a majority with 78 seats, Matovic said he also want to rule with Le Pen’s ally, We Are Family, a populist right group that placed third with 8.2% or 17 seats. “I’d like to assure everybody that there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “We’re not here to fight cultural wars.”

It’s hard to estimate whether their partnership can survive the whole four-year term. An extreme far-right party whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO became the fourth most popular party in the country of just under 5.5 million with 8% and 17 seats.

The far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia already won 8% and 14 seats in parliament in 2016. All other parties have ruled out cooperation with the party that advocates the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet World War II state.

Opposition challenges leftist ruling party in Slovak vote

February 29, 2020

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovaks are voting in parliamentary elections widely expected to unseat the long dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party that governed on an anti-immigration platform. According to the latest polls, a coalition of several center-right parties is emerging as a favorite to win Saturday’s ballot and form a new government for Slovakia.

The center-right Ordinary People, led by Igor Matovic, is the front-runner, followed by Smer-Social Democracy, led by populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico. Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. An anti-corruption drive has been in the party’s program since he established it 10 years ago. He is ahead in opinion polls with some 19%.

If he wins as predicted, Matovic is the likeliest candidate for prime minister. He is expected to govern with a coalition of the liberal Progressive Slovakia/Together, the conservative For People established by former President Andrej Kiska, and the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party.

Fico’s Smer has been in power for most of the past 14 years. It gained 28.3% in the last elections in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket. But the party was damaged by political turmoil following the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée and is expected to receive around 15%.

Fico’s current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians, might not win any seats, polls suggest. In a worrying development, an extreme far-right party whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO is forecast to strengthen its hold in the 150-seat parliament, to become the third most popular party in the country of just under 5.5 million.

The far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia won 8% and 14 seats in Parliament in 2016 and this time might get about 10%. All other parties have ruled out cooperation with the party that advocates the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet WWII state.

Center-right opposition leads polls ahead of Slovakian vote

February 28, 2020

PRAGUE (AP) — Slovaks vote Saturday in parliamentary elections widely expected to unseat the country’s long dominant but scandal-tainted center-left party that governed on an anti-immigration platform, in favor of a coalition headed by center-right populists.

And an extreme far-right party whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO is forecast to strengthen its hold in the 150-seat parliament, to become the third most popular party in the country of just under 5.5 million.

According to the latest opinion polls, the center-right Ordinary People, led by Igor Matovic, is the front-runner, followed by Smer-Social Democracy, led by populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Smer has been in power for most of the past 14 years, and gained 28.3% in the last elections in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket. But the party was damaged by political turmoil following the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

Fico’s current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians, might not win any seats, polls suggest. “My prognosis is that Smer won’t be in the government,” said Grigorij Meseznikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs in the capital, Bratislava.

Here’s a look at the vote:

KUCIAK FACTOR

The 2018 killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, triggered major street protests and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Fico’s three-party coalition government.

A new cabinet was made up of ministers from the same three parties and led by Peter Pellegrini, previously the deputy prime minister. Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed, and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s party.

Four defendants are on trial in the Kuciak case, facing potential prison sentences of 25 years to life if convicted. They include the alleged mastermind, businessman Marian Kocner. The investigation has been damaging for Fico because it disclosed that Kocner created a wide network of contacts with politicians, including members of Smer, judges and prosecutors, who allegedly helped him with his business dealings.

Kocner was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Thursday in a separate case over forgery and securities crime. “The expected change (of government) will mean a return of the rule of law,” said Michal Vasecka, program director of the Bratislava Policy Institute. “The killings of Kuciak and Kusnirova contributed significantly to the change.”

FRONT RUNNERS

The pro-Western Ordinary People party is ahead in opinion polls with some 19%. Its chairman, Igor Matovic, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign.

“It’s considered the major protest party for those who are not satisfied with the current situation, and it represents for them hope for change,” said Martin Slosiarik, director of the Focus polling agency in Bratislava.

“Like typical populists, they divide the world between the corrupt elites and millions of ordinary people who are managed by those corrupt elites,” Vasecka said of the party. “Matovic keeps repeating it all the time, ‘I am an ordinary person, I am one of you.’ And it seems that people listen to it.”

FAR RIGHT

In a shocking result four years ago, the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia won 8% and 14 seats in Parliament. In contrast to most of Europe’s far-right groups, analysts say it’s truly neo-Nazi because it advocates the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet WWII state. This time, polls show it might get 10%.

Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in deprived areas, describe NATO as a terror group and want Slovakia to leave the alliance and the EU. All other parties have ruled out cooperation with the party led by Marian Kotleba, which attracts young people fed up with corruption and the inability of mainstream parties to effectively address post-communism problems.

WHAT’S AHEAD

No party is expected to win a governing majority and a coalition government will need to be formed. Matovic is the likeliest candidate for future prime minister. He is expected to govern with a coalition of liberal Progressive Slovakia/Together, conservative For People established by former President Andrej Kiska and the euro-skeptic, pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party.

They all put their differences aside in efforts to beat Fico but it’s hard to estimate whether their possible partnership can survive the whole four-year term. “What is coming is a period of great instability,” said Vasecka, from the Bratislava Policy Institute. “The coalition that might be created by democratic opposition parties will be very broad and formed by very different entities.”

Liberal upstart Caputova elected 1st Slovak female president

March 31, 2019

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — An liberal environmental activist has been elected as the first female president of Slovakia. Relative newcomer Zuzana Caputova had 58 percent of the vote with almost 95 percent of returns counted in Saturday’s runoff election, topping European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who had 42 percent.

Sefcovic conceded defeat and congratulated his rival. “I’m extremely happy about the result,” Caputova said. “It’s an extremely strong mandate for me,” she said. “Zuzana, Zuzana,” her supporters chanted.

Caputova, 45, has little experience in politics and attracted voters who are appalled by corruption and mainstream politics. She only recently became vice chairman of the Progressive Slovakia, a party so new it has not had a chance to run in parliamentary elections. Caputova resigned from her party post after winning the first round of the presidential vote two weeks ago.

She becomes Slovakia’s fifth president since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The president of the nation of 5.4 million people has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. Parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, however. The government, led by the prime minister, possesses most executive powers.

A lawyer by profession, Caputova is a rising star of Slovak politics. She became known for leading a successful fight against a toxic waste dump in her hometown of Pezinok, for which she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2016.

A divorced mother of two, she is in favor of gay rights and opposes a ban on abortion in this conservative Roman Catholic country. She was also part of a campaign in 2017 that led to the annulment of pardons granted by former authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.

Sefcovic, 52, is a career diplomat who was supported by the leftist Smer-Social Democracy party led by former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, a major force in Slovak politics that was tarnished by corruption scandals. He campaigned on a traditional family values ticket.

Popular incumbent Andrej Kiska, who did not stand for a second term, backed Caputova in the vote. The two had supported the massive anti-government street protests last year triggered by the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee that that led to the fall of Fico’s coalition government. Investigators have linked Jan Kuciak’s death to his work probing possible widespread government corruption.

Fico’s party has already suffered losses in local elections in November — the first votes since the largest demonstrations in the country since the anti-Communist Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Slovakia goes from stability to chaos after journalist death

March 09, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — Slovakia has quickly turned from what seemed to be a stable European Union country into chaos, in the wake of the unprecedented slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee. In a speech last month, President Andrej Kiska talked about his country as “successful, proud and self-confident.” On March 4, however, he said Slovakia faces a “serious political crisis” triggered by the shooting deaths of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova. Police said Kuciak’s killing was likely linked to his work.

The political storm has been intensifying daily since their bodies were found Feb. 25. Amid heated exchanges between the ruling coalition and the opposition, conspiracy theories spread by Prime Minister Robert Fico and his repeated verbal attacks on Kiska, a growing number of people have started to turn against the Fico government, threatening its very existence.

For his last unfinished story, Kuciak, 27, reported on the influence of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and its possible ties to people close to Fico. That was followed by news that Slovak authorities had been informed by their Italian counterparts about a powerful Italian crime syndicate operating in Slovakia. Seven members of the group are suspects in the killings. They were detained last week and later released.

When tens of thousands marched across the country and in cities around the world last week to honor Kuciak, many called on government ministers to resign. Massive demonstrations — this time aimed directly at the government — are planned for Friday.

“Many have realized that the situation is becoming critical,” said Michal Vasecka, an analyst from the Bratislava Policy Institute think tank. “A fight started to prevent Slovakia from becoming another Hungary, an autocracy controlled by a small group of oligarchs.”

Reflecting the popular mood and growing protests, Kiska called for substantial changes in the government or for an early election to resolve the crisis. “There’s a huge public distrust of the state,” Kiska said. “And many don’t trust law enforcement authorities … This distrust is justified. We crossed the line, things went too far and there’s no way back.”

Fico fired back, accusing the president of destabilizing the country with help from Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros whom Kiska privately met with in New York in September. Soros dismissed Fico’s suggestion he might have anything to do with the president’s proposals and the anti-government protests.

Vasecka, the analyst, said Fico’s conspiracy claims likely anger some people and contribute to their decision to join the protests because they hark back to the 1990s and the rule of authoritative Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar who led the country into international isolation. Meciar also targeted Soros.

“It reminds people of Meciar and also of communist rule. And a large part of society is very sensitive about it,” Vasecka said. U.S. Ambassador Adam Sterling said in a statement that “as Slovak society wrestles with the implications of this crime, we urge all parties to refrain from resorting to the use of conspiracy theories and disinformation.”

A junior party in the ruling coalition has called for the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak as a condition to remain in the government. Thousands already demanded Kalinak’s resignation last year after he was linked to earlier corruption scandals. The leadership of the coalition party known as Most-Hid will meet on Tuesday to decide on their role in the coalition.

Meanwhile, the opposition has requested a parliamentary no-confidence vote on the government, but a date has yet to be set. Fico called the opposition request an “attempted coup.”

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