Socialist Worker

Slovak prime minister's resignation fails to quell protest movement

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2596

Prime minister-designate Peter Pellegrini

Prime minister-designate Peter Pellegrini (Pic: Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Mass protests against corruption forced Slovakia’s social democratic prime minister Robert Fico to resign last Wednesday.

It was a desperate attempt to save the Social Democrat/Hungarian nationalist party coalition government.

But Fico’s resignation has failed to quell the protests that are now demanding a snap general election.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in 25 cities on Friday of last week—the third week of mass protests.

Fico’s anointed successor prime minister-designate Peter Pellegrini now faces a vote of confidence.

He is likely to gain the support of the 79 MPs needed to form a new government. But the right wing opposition is using the crisis to push its own agenda.

The billionaire businessman president Andrej Kiska has called for a “radical reconstruction” of the government.

The protests that removed Fico followed the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kusnirova in their flat in Bratislava last month.

He was investigating how the Italian gangster Antonino Vadala had profited from European Union (EU) funds because of its links to politicians.

There is deep anger against the Social Democrats who’ve ruled for 13 years.

They first came into office in 2006 promising a shift away from the free market shock therapy that had devastated working class people’s lives.

And, for a brief time, the Social Democrats backed up their rhetoric about fighting neoliberalism.

They even renationalised the SPP gas utility company in 2014 after a decade of price hikes.


But the Social Democrats tied their project to the EU because Slovak capitalism relies on the German market.

As crisis hit the eurozone, the Slovak government implemented austerity. And the Social Democrats have increasingly used racism against refugees to deflect people’s anger at the EU in a right wing direction.

The right have jumped on the protests because they paint corruption as a legacy of Stalinism that’s continued under “illiberal” politicians. 

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Protest organisers—nine liberal journalists and political staffers—play to this with their demand for a “respectable Slovakia”.

Vadala was praised by the right wing coalitions that ruled Slovakia in the 2000s and pushed free market policies.

The right were embroiled in their own corruption scandal over privatisation in 2011.

The protests are the biggest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Stalinist dictatorship.

But people’s hopes were disappointed as state capitalism was replaced by free market capitalism.

Communist Party politicians became “democratic” politicians and state-owned factory managers became privatised factory owners.

The movement will have to look beyond the free market and the old order to win real gains for working class people.

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