A fully-fledged political crisis is evolving in Slovakia after the brutal murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. As thousands of people gather in the streets, Prime Minister Robert Fico has accused the President of colluding with financier George Soros in an attempt to destabilize the country.
Slovakia has been in political turmoil since last Monday, when news of the murder of Kuciak and Martina Kušnírova reached the public.
Slovak media have since published the reporter’s last and unfinished text, in which Kuciak identified people with links to Italian mafia in the immediate circles of the Prime Minister Robert Fico (SMER-SD). Italian suspects were detained and then released.
Motive “likely” linked to his work
The motive of the murder as well the perpetrators are still unknown and the investigation is ongoing. The Police President and the Prosecutor General have said that Kuciak’s murder was “likely” to have been linked to his work.
Opposition forces used the tragedy to step up pressure on the government. Citizens marched the streets of Slovak cities on 2 March in the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989.
Junior coalition party Most-Híd has summoned its internal decision-making council to meet next week to decide on whether to remain in the government. The Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), also a junior coalition partner, has not given any clear answer on what their next steps could be.
Fico’s government faces criticism for having created oligarchic structures intertwined with politics that got out of hand.
The only member of the government to resign so far is the minister of culture Marek Maďarič (SMER-SD) who said he “could not bear the murder” of a journalist.
Kiska calls for extensive government reconstruction or an early election
On Sunday, President Andrej Kiska, who won the run-off presidential elections against Fico in 2014, made a live broadcast public statement after a week of silence.
“A large number of people are convinced that this tragedy in many ways reflects Slovak reality in general”, he said.
He outlined two possible scenarios for Slovakia, the first being an “extensive and radical reconstruction of a government that would not polarize society as well as demand and gain the trust of the National Council”.
The other scenario is an early election, but that must be decided by the 150-seat Parliament with a minimum of 90 votes. Negotiations with political party leaders will begin in the coming days, said Kiska.
“I am ready to bring this country through this complex and difficult situation”, Kiska concluded.
President Andrej Kiska spoke on Sunday about the current political situation. “On Thursday, I announced that… https://t.co/dsqIAckKhn After the murder of jornalist Jan Kuciak Slovak president wants big cabinet reshuffle or PM Fico to resign
— Georgi Gotev (@GeorgiGotev) March 6, 2018
Soros behind President´s speech, Fico says
Fico’s first reaction to Kiska was to hint that the President’s statement was “not written in Slovakia”.
On Monday (4 March), he was unambiguous.
“I want to pose a simple question to Mr. President. On 20 September 2017 in New York, on 5th Avenue, I am asking, why the Head of State would pay a visit on private soil to a person, who has questionable reputation and this person´s name is George Soros.”
Some of the journalists present in the room started to laugh, one exclaiming: “You are being ridiculous.”
“You can laugh how much you want,” replied Fico and continued: “Why has he not taken any representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to this meeting? What happened after the murder of the journalists suggest that there is an attempt in this country for a total destabilisation”.
Here we go – for the first time, Slovak Prime Minister Fico just openly accused president @Andrej_Kiska of colluding with George Soros to bring down the government. #Slovakia now in same basket as Orban's #Hungary. Shameful. pic.twitter.com/n3ev6HTbur
— Daniel Kral (@DanielKral1) March 5, 2018
Fico also reproached the President for having said that, regardless of the motive behind the murder, the event mirrored the atmosphere in the country.
“I refuse that, it does damn matter”.
Teams from the FBI, Scotland Yard, Italy, Europol and the Czech Republic are assisting the Slovak Police in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament is expected to send an extraordinary fact-finding mission to Slovakia to look into alleged fraud in the use of European agricultural subsidies that, according to Kuciak’s findings, was a key part of the Italian mafia’s business model in Eastern Slovakia.
Trustworthy source in @Europarl_EN gave me a list of MEPs coming to #Slovakia tmrw following #JanKuciak's murder & his revelations on EU funds: #IngeborgGrässle,#ClaudeMoraes, @javorbenedek, @MarcoValliM5S, @SulikRichard. 3 more MEPs f/other groups to join. @euractivsk #allforjan pic.twitter.com/4syXiyNSwI
— Pavol Szalai (@pavolszalai) March 6, 2018
Foreign Minister Lajčák “does not want to speculate”
Fico’s statement has met with a large negative reaction. However, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, wrote in a statement that “George Soros is a man who has had a major influence on the development in the eastern and central Europe and beyond. That is a fact that cannot be questioned.”
Nevertheless, he added that he does “not want to speculate if and to what extent he is interested in today’s problems of Slovakia.”
Millions for an open society
An 87-year old philanthropist and financier, George Soros has provided $45 million in funding to Slovakia over the last 25 years, the executive director of the Soros-funded Open Society Fund in Slovakia Ján Orlovský wrote on social media.
“He gave us 45 million and took nothing back, the only thing he wanted, is for us to live in a free society where everyone has equal opportunities, where there is rule of law and education and justice is accessible for everyone.”
Soros declined any involvement in Slovakia´s affairs through his spokesperson, the daily Hospodárske noviny reported.