Slovak government loses its majority after partner withdraws

September 5, 2022 GMT
FILE - Richard Sulik, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, addresses the media in reaction to the first preliminary results of the general elections at its party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior party completed its withdrawal from the four-party coalition. Three ministers from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party submitted their resignation on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik who had resigned from his government post last week.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
FILE - Richard Sulik, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, addresses the media in reaction to the first preliminary results of the general elections at its party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior party completed its withdrawal from the four-party coalition. Three ministers from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party submitted their resignation on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik who had resigned from his government post last week.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
FILE - Richard Sulik, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, addresses the media in reaction to the first preliminary results of the general elections at its party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior party completed its withdrawal from the four-party coalition. Three ministers from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party submitted their resignation on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik who had resigned from his government post last week.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
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FILE - Richard Sulik, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, addresses the media in reaction to the first preliminary results of the general elections at its party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior party completed its withdrawal from the four-party coalition. Three ministers from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party submitted their resignation on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik who had resigned from his government post last week. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
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FILE - Richard Sulik, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, addresses the media in reaction to the first preliminary results of the general elections at its party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior party completed its withdrawal from the four-party coalition. Three ministers from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party submitted their resignation on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik who had resigned from his government post last week. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s political crisis has deepened after a junior partner completed its withdrawal from the governing four-party coalition, leaving Prime Minister Eduard Heger without a parliamentary majority.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, Justice Minister Maria Kolikova and Education Minister Branislav Gröhling, all from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party, submitted their resignations on Monday. They followed the example of the party leader and former Economy Minister Richard Sulik, who resigned from his government post last week.

Heger said Monday that he was planning to introduce candidates for the four empty ministerial posts to President Zuzana Caputova, but gave no further details.

Freedom and Solidarity previously said it wasn’t willing to stay in the government because of disagreements with Finance Minister Igor Matovic, a populist leader whose Ordinary People party won the 2020 parliamentary election.

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“We’re sorry to leave the government,” Sulik said Monday.

Sulik has clashed with Matovic on a number of issues, including how to tackle soaring inflation driven by high energy prices amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or, earlier, how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Their disagreements gradually turned into bitter personal attacks.

Freedom and Solidarity had given Prime Minister Heger a deadline until the end of August to reshuffle the Cabinet and rule without Matovic, saying that otherwise its four ministers would resign.

Matovic’s Ordinary People party rejected that option.

After winning the election on an anti-corruption ticket two years ago, Matovic struck a deal to govern with Freedom and Solidarity, the conservative For People party, and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that is allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.

The government made fighting corruption a key policy issue.

But amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, it collapsed as Matovic was forced to resign as prime minister after he orchestrated a secret deal to acquire 2 million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine despite disagreement among his coalition partners.

The same parties formed a new government under Heger, who is a close ally of Matovic’s and the deputy head of his Ordinary People party.

The current Slovak government has been donating arms to the Ukrainian armed forces while opening its border to refugees fleeing the war with Russia.