Slovak coalition party completes withdrawal from government

Prime Minister Igor Matovic, front, announces the resignation of Health Minister Marek Krajci, left, in Bratislava, Thursday March 11, 2021. Two parties in Slovakias ruling coalition called Monday March 15, 2021, on populist prime minister Matovic to step down amidst a government crisis triggered two weeks ago by a secret deal to acquire Russias Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, orchestrated by Matovic. (Pavel Neubauer/TASR via AP) (AP)

BRATISLAVA – A party in Slovakia’s ruling coalition completed its withdrawal from the government on Thursday amid a political crisis triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s coronavirus vaccine.

Two ministers for the Freedom and Solidarity party, Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok and Education Minister Branislav Grohling, joined their leader, Richard Sulik, to hand in their resignations to President Zuzana Caputova. Sulik resigned from his deputy prime minister post on Monday.

Sulik said on Thursday his party is withdrawing from the coalition until Prime Minister Igor Matovic resigns.

The crisis erupted when a secret deal came to light three weeks ago involving Slovakia’s agreement to acquire 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. The populist prime minister orchestrated the deal despite disagreement among his coalition partners.

Matovic has defended the Sputnik V purchase, saying it would speed up the vaccination program in one of the hardest-hit European Union countries.

But two parties in his coalition government, Freedom and Solidarity and For People, which had clashed repeatedly with Matovic’ Ordinary People party over how to tackle the pandemic, demanded his resignation as a condition for the coalition to survive.

Matovic indicated he was willing to step down on condition he would assume a deputy prime minister post instead. The Freedom and Solidarity rejected that.

Matovic and his party struck a deal a year ago to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party, the conservative For People, and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that was allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.

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