Slovak Premier Offers to Resign to End Russian Vaccine Row
(Bloomberg) -- Slovakia’s government parties agreed to a cabinet reshuffle that will likely lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Igor Matovic to quell a monthlong political crisis triggered by the purchase of Russian coronavirus vaccines.
Under the plan, Matovic offered to step down as premier and swap jobs with Eduard Heger, his finance minister and a close party ally. The deal will end the most serious political feud among the four coalition partners since Matovic’s party unexpectedly won the 2020 elections on an anti-corruption platform.
The cabinet shuffle underscores the political pressure on leaders in the European Union, where a stuttering vaccination campaign has triggered voter anger after significantly falling behind similar roll-outs in the U.S. and the U.K.
The Slovak premier had been under pressure to leave since early March after announcing that he would buy the Sputnik V shots without the consent of his partners. The move drew a rebuke from President Zuzana Caputova and raised concerns that it could undermine the foreign-policy orientation of the EU and NATO nation. The country hasn’t started using the Russian vaccines.
“We want to give this a chance,” said Richard Sulik, the leader of the junior coalition member Freedom and Solidarity who had demanded Matovic’s resignation. “We won’t look back, we want to be looking into the future.”
The ruling alliance had been continually rocked by infighting and personal animosities since it took power while still managing to enact a wide anti-corruption sweep of the police, judiciary and business circles.
Matovic has repeatedly sought out-of-the-box solutions to the pandemic, launching the EU’s only effort to test his country’s entire adult population last year. After the Euro-area nation of 5.5 million was initially among the most successful globally in containing the contagion, the testing plan came and went, and Slovakia has suffered from one of the deadliest outbreaks in Europe since fall.
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