EU to Lose Key Ally in Slovakia as President Won't Seek New Term

(Bloomberg) -- Slovak President Andrej Kiska won’t seek a second term in next year’s election, removing a key pro-European voice in a country that is at the center of a region gripped by a rise of euroskeptic and anti-establishment sentiment.

Kiska told a news conference Tuesday that he would step aside, saying some of his decisions had divided society. His departure would help end “the era of political confrontation,” he said. The 55 year-old former entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

A political independent, Kiska frequently clashed with former Prime Minister Robert Fico, whom he surprisingly defeated in the 2014 presidential runoff. He has criticized the government for failing to investigate graft and was a vocal advocate of sanctions against Russia, a stance Fico opposed. Fico, who still leads the ruling Smer party, said Tuesday he wouldn’t run in next year’s race.

In his most forceful intervention in government affairs, Kiska called for a “radical” revamp of the government following the execution-style murder this year of a journalist who was investigating ties between the government and organized crime. As protesters mounted the largest street demonstrations in the country of 5.4 million since the fall of communism, he branded Slovakia under Fico a "mafia state." Fico resigned under pressure in March.

Kiska remains the euro-zone country’s most trusted politician, according to opinion polls. He would probably have been the frontrunner in the election, which is slated to take place by March. He left the door open for staying in politics in a different position, saying he’ll decide after November municipal elections.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.