Slovak Premier Calling Ally ‘Idiot’ Risks Breaking Coalition

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic called his key ruling partner an “idiot” and asked him to quit as economy minister, raising the risk the coalition government will break up after less than a year.

With the worsening pandemic putting eastern Europe’s leaders under increased pressure, Matovic isn’t the only one struggling. In fellow euro-area member Slovenia, a junior coalition partner walked away, increasing the chances the opposition will seek a no-confidence motion against Premier Janez Jansa as early as next week.

Citizens blame the two prime ministers, who took power as the coronavirus emerged in March, for failing to get the second wave of the disease under control. Romania’s premier resigned this month after disappointing election results also triggered by his administration’s performance in combating the virus.

Slovak Premier Calling Ally ‘Idiot’ Risks Breaking Coalition

Speaking Thursday in an interview with Radio Expres, Matovic said Deputy Prime Minister Richard Sulik, who chairs the liberal SaS party, failed to secure sufficient supplies of rapid coronavirus tests, making an unpopular lockdown just days before Christmas the only available course of action. He apologized for “having an idiot as economy minister.”

Sulik responded that he didn’t take the comments personally and that “Slovakia has bigger problems than the prime minister’s emotional state.”

‘Doesn’t Care’

Matovic has sought to avoid shutting down the economy, pushing through frequent mass testing instead. Even as Slovakia was the world’s first nation to test most of the population for Covid-19 in November, it failed to conduct a second round because of bickering among officials.

While the pair have clashed before over measures to stem the pandemic, the prime minister has never before asked for his partner’s resignation. The call comes as SaS has overtaken Matovic’s Ordinary People movement in opinion polls. Even without Sulik’s party, Matovic would still control a majority in parliament.

“He doesn’t care about people -- they’re just numbers for him,” Matovic said of Sulik. “I can no longer watch it. It makes me sick and brings tears to my eyes. This is for resignation.”

Under Slovakia’s constitution, he can ask the president to fire Sulik, a move that would likely lead to his party’s departure from the coalition.

In Slovenia, if more parties quit the coalition and join the opposition’s no-confidence push, the ouster of the country’s nationalist leader could lead to a new governemnt or early elections. That would complicate Slovenia’s preparations to take over the European Union’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2021.

“The departure of DeSUS has done half the work for the opposition,” said Alem Maksuti, a political scientist at the Institute for Political Management in Ljubljana. “It doesn’t spell the end of Jansa’s government just yet.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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