Bratislava, March 22 (CTK) – Slovak President Andrej Kiska today appointed the new cabinet of Peter Pellegrini, which the three government parties formed after previous prime minister Robert Fico’s (both Smer-Social Democracy) resignation amid a political crisis a week ago.
Most of the cabinet’s 15 members were ministers of the previous cabinet. There are six personnel changes. Besides a new prime minister, Slovakia has a new deputy PM for investments and IT, and new ministers of interior, justice, culture and health.
Lawmakers are expected to express confidence in the government of Pellegrini, who is deputy chairman of Fico’s Smer-Social Democracy, since the coalition of Smer-SD, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and Most-Hid commands a majority of votes in the 150-seat parliament.
The political crisis in Slovakia broke out in the wake of the late February murder of Jan Kuciak, a journalist who wrote in his last, unfinished article about suspected links between mafia in eastern Slovakia and people around then PM Fico, and related cases of misuse of EU subsidies going to agriculture in Slovakia. Kuciak and his fiancee, both aged 27, were killed by an unknown shooter.
“We have met today to appoint a new government because young people were murdered. We are standing here because the public’s mistrust and indignation cannot be responded by shouts, arrogance or by ignoring the suspicions that organised crime reaches the top level of Slovak politics,” Kiska said during the ceremony today, reacting to continuing mass demonstrations in the country.
“It is not enough to replace the cabinet, your basic responsibility is to change the style of governance,” Kiska, who had tense relations with previous PM Fico, told the new members of the cabinet.
Pellegrini said the establishment of the new cabinet is a step towards restoring stability in the country.
He, too, condemned the murder of Kuciak and his partner.
“I and my colleagues consider this act an attack on the freedom of speech as one of the pillars of democracy in Slovakia. I want to assure everybody that I personally and my government and the relevant institutions will do their utmost for the repugnant crime to be cleared up and its perpetrators punished,” Pellegrini said.
He said his cabinet has taken over the policy statement of its predecessor, although many of its programme goals have already been fulfilled by Fico’s government, including steps in the areas of taxes, rail transport and the personal bankruptcy system.
“The new cabinet’s task is to complete the fulfilment of the policy statement, whose content thus remains unchanged. Only the few items related to Slovak EU presidency (in the second half of 2016) will be deleted,” Pellegrini said.
Later today, Pellegrini will attend the EU summit in Brussels. His spokeswoman Beatrice Szaboova told Slovak media that Pellegrini will attend only the first day of the summit, while on Friday Slovakia will be represented at it by Czech PM Andrej Babis.
Congratulating Pellegrini on his appointment, European Council President Donald Tusk wished him success in meeting the Slovak people’s expectations. He called Slovakia a key country in building the EU’s unity.
The death of the young couple triggered a wave of anti-government demonstrations across the country and abroad, with Kiska calling for a reconstruction of the government or an early election as a way out of the crisis. Robert Kalinak (Smer-SD) resigned as interior minister earlier this month, and Fico followed suit last week, stepping down halfway through his cabinet’s term of office.
The PM’s resignation meant the departure of the whole cabinet.
The mass demonstrations continued even after Fico’s resignation, with protesters, the same as the Slovak opposition, demanding an early general election. After the new cabinet was appointed today, nevertheless, the organisers of the largest protests in Bratislava cancelled the demonstration scheduled for Friday.
Earlier this week, the appointment of a new cabinet was delayed by Kiska’s rejection of Pellegrini’s first proposal of its lineup. Kiska accepted only the second variant proposed by Pellegrini, in which Jozef Raz, a son of a popular singer, was replaced with outgoing health minister Tomas Drucker in the post of interior minister.