Slovak Leader Shuns Cabinet Lineup as Political Tension Persists

(Bloomberg) -- Slovakia’s president rejected a cabinet lineup proposed by the ruling coalition, extending a political shakeup sparked by the murder of a journalist and the biggest public protests since the fall of communism.

President Andrej Kiska said some cabinet nominees couldn’t guarantee the restoring of public trust in state institutions after Prime Minister Robert Fico resigned last week. He asked Fico’s proposed replacement, Peter Pellegrini, to prepare a new list by Friday. The decision is a rebuke against the ruling coalition, which said it would revamp its administration to avoid early elections but kept many cabinet names unchanged.

“Pellegrini’s task is very difficult,” Kiska told reporters in the capital Bratislava on Tuesday. “If the new cabinet cares about rebuilding the trust of citizens in the state and calming an indignant public, then its composition has to meet the highest criteria.”

Fico’s departure from the top government job, which he had held for 10 years in three different terms, has failed to quell public discontent over the government’s failure to tackle corruption. Tens of thousands of people marched through Slovak cities for a third week Friday, demanding early elections.

The protests have highlighted an atmosphere of political turmoil in the European Union’s post-communist nations. In Slovenia, a fellow euro-zone member, the president began consultations over bringing forward summer parliamentary elections after Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned last week. Anti-government protesters have also held rallies in Poland, Romania and Hungary, the last of which is holding elections next month that Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to win.

While Fico’s resignation was at least a partial victory for his critics, it weakened the position of a government that has presented a foil to euroskeptic forces across the EU’s eastern wing. The agreement to keep the ruling coalition in power -- its party leaders said they have a guaranteed majority in parliament -- seeks to prevent early elections half-way through the regular term. Opposition parties, which include anti-establishment, anti-EU forces, have made gains in opinion polls.

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