PRAGUE (AP) – The political crisis in Slovakia deepened on Wednesday after a member of the ruling coalition demanded the reshuffle of the cabinet.
The price increase was due to a secret deal to purchase the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which was organized by the country’s Prime Minister, despite disagreements between coalition partners.
The leader of the Freedom և Solidarity party, Richard Sulik, said that the situation in the coalition was so serious that “it is difficult for us to continue on this path.”
“Obviously we have not succeeded in fighting the epidemic,” Sulik said. His party has stated it will not run in the by-elections.
Sulik has often clashed with Prime Minister Igor Matovich over how to resolve the epidemic, but the current crisis is the most serious problem facing the coalition.
Matovic defended the deal to buy Sputnik V 2 million vaccines, saying it would speed up the vaccination program in one of the EU countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
But it was condemned by Foreign Minister Ivan Korchok, who was nominated for the post by Sulik’s party, who said the vaccine was a tool in Russia’s hybrid war against the West. Korkok said the purchase calls into question his country’s clear pro-Western orientation.
Another coalition partner, the People for the Party, did not rule out leaving the coalition.
The party’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Veronica Remisova, said any vaccine must be approved by the EU drug regulator.
On Wednesday, Matovic acknowledged that he had received the Russian vaccine against the will of his colleagues, but urged them not to use the conflict to destroy their coalition.
“As Prime Minister, I think it is my duty to do my utmost to save people’s lives and health in Slovakia,” he said in a video message.
On Wednesday, Remisova met with other leaders of Sulik over the crisis, including another critic of the Sputnik V deal, President Uz Uzana Kaputova.
After the meeting, Sulik said that his party was “by no means” in favor of snap elections.
Parliament Speaker Boris Kolar, leader of the fourth We Are a Family coalition, called on his colleagues to put aside their differences and negotiate a way forward. Kolar invited representatives of all four coalition parties to a meeting late Wednesday.
Pro-Western Matovich lost his job last year to rule with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party. Conservative People’s Party, founded by former President Andrei Kiska. and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.
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