Slovak Protesters Stand Down After Appointment of New Cabinet

(Bloomberg) -- Slovak protesters called off nationwide demonstrations after the president appointed a new cabinet, averting snap election amid the largest anti-government rallies in the country since the fall of communism.

President Andrej Kiska appointed Peter Pellegrini as prime minister on Thursday. He replaces three-time Premier Robert Fico, who resigned last week after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets calling for an early ballot after the murder of a journalist who was investigating state corruption. The appointment prompted civic groups, which for the past month have organized protests, to call off rallies planned for Friday, according to their Facebook page.

Slovak Protesters Stand Down After Appointment of New Cabinet

“I believe that everyone will realize that it’s not enough to just change the government,” Kiska said in Bratislava. “Your fundamental responsibility is to change the style of governing.”

Fico’s departure was a victory for opposition parties, even as it removed one of the few self-proclaimed pro-European Union leaders in the bloc’s eastern wing, where a pantheon of populist, euroskeptic figures have increasingly clashed with the bloc over democratic values. The cabinet still faces an uphill battle to rebuild public support after the government has failed to crack down on corruption in the wake of numerous media reports of officials involved in graft.

Pellegrini, 42, has been a lawmaker for the ruling Smer party since 2006 in a career that includes stints as education minister, parliamentary speaker and deputy premier. He is viewed as a member of a progressive, liberal wing within the party which, shortly after its founding, absorbed the reformed communists and, unlike its western socialist peers, opposes gay marriage. Pellegrini, who is heading to his first EU summit just hours after the appointment, has pledged to maintain the country’s pro-integration posture.

Fitch Ratings said after Fico’s resignation that “sharp changes to economic or fiscal policy are unlikely.” The company rates Slovakia at A+, its fifth-best grade. The Finance Ministry will continue to be headed by Peter Kazimir, a proponent of fiscal restraint and one of the most outspoken critics of Greece for its reluctance to meet creditors’ demands.

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