Slovakia gets new govt amid crisis over slain reporter
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s president appointed a new government Thursday to replace the one that resigned amid a political crisis triggered by the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.
Prime Minister Robert Fico’s three-party coalition stepped down last week following large street protests sparked by the Feb. 25 shooting deaths of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova.
Before he was slain, Kuciak was reporting on alleged Italian mafia ties to associates of Fico and corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer-Social Democracy party.
President Andrej Kiska swore in a Cabinet made up of ministers from the same three parties that made up Fico’s government and led by Peter Pellegrini, who previously was the deputy prime minister.
“It’s your responsibility to fight to win public trust,” Kiska told the government members.
Pellegrini pledged to “renew the stability of Slovakia.”
It is not clear if the shake-up will reduce tensions over the slayings. Anti-government rallies scheduled for Friday in the capital of Bratislava and elsewhere were canceled, but organizers said some protests would proceed.
Pellegrini changed five of the 14 ministers in the previous government, but since he is also deputy chairman in the Smer-Social Democracy party, no significant policy changes are expected. His government is likely to continue Fico’s strong anti-migrant policies.
The coalition faces a confidence vote in Parliament, but it’s likely to win because it has 79 of the 150 seats.
Later Thursday, organizers of the anti-government protests said they will be closely watching the new government.
“We haven’t finished yet, quite the contrary,” they said in a statement. “We’re here and ready to take to the streets again.”
Students in Bratislava said they would go ahead with their plan to march on Friday to honor Kuciak and Kusnirova. The protests also are expected to take place in some other cities and towns.
The protesters were demanding a thorough and independent investigation into the shooting deaths, with the participation of international investigators, and the creation of a credible government.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have rallied repeatedly across Slovakia since the bodies of Kuciak and Kusnirova were found shot dead at home, the biggest anti-government protests since the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution.
They don’t trust Slovak police will be able to investigate the slayings properly.
Kiska expressed the same opinion, saying Thursday it will be “necessary to replace the police leadership.”