“You’re a corrupt thief and you’re finally at your base,” Igor Matovic, current chairman of the ruling OLaNO party, said from opposition ranks in 2017. He addressed his words to the Slovak Prime Minister of the time, Robert Fico, from the Smer party.
Matovic later told Fico that he was the reason he entered politics. Since then, government roles have changed, and the coalition with Matovic as finance minister enjoys a comfortable constitutional majority in parliament.
Despite this, Matovič did not deliver on his “promise”. Fico has been accused of conspiracy to form a criminal organization, abuse of power and disclosure of tax secrets for two weeks, but parliament refused to prosecute Fico on Wednesday evening.
Two voices were missing
Just two weeks ago, when the prosecution of Fica announced the charges, it looked like parliament would grant the request. In the end, however, it did not get enough votes in the Assembly.
The Credentials and Immunities Committee recommended that a Member be released. Parliament then discussed Fico’s release last Thursday and Friday, and then again on Tuesday. Talks dragged on because of Fico’s accomplices and some factual statements.
Two votes were short of confirming Fico’s release. Of these, 76 deputies in need, 74 deputies in favor, 49 in favour, 19 deputies abstained and eight did not vote. Unusually, all 150 deputies were in the hall.
So the offer did not pass. However, it was not clear until the last moment how the voting would end. The head of the coalition movement, We Are the Family, Boris Kollár, announced in advance that he would stay. Even though the coalition had the necessary majority if not Kollar’s move, it counted every vote – and in the end it didn’t.
In addition to the 17 members of Kollár’s “family”, one member of Matovič’s OLaNO abstained and another did not vote.
Fica was “held” by members of the Directive and far-right parties. 11 MPs also opposed Prime Minister Petr Pellegrini’s Voice. The former member of Direction, who replaced Fico after the murder of Ján Kuciak, did not stand up for the accused politician. However, he said Slovakia is “not a standard democratic state” and confidence in an impartial process has been shaken.
Political reactions after the vote in Fico
- In response to the result, Smer posted a photo of lawmakers, including Robert Fico, on Facebook. “We thank all the lawmakers in Slovakia who stood by common sense and voted for democracy and the rule of law today. Slovaks, we are twice as strong today thanks to your support to save Slovakia,” writes the party.
- President OLaNO Igor Matovic In response to the result of the vote, he declared that “justice has lost one of the wars”. “The participation of 150 deputies, which cost a corrupt criminal, cost a lot. The finance minister said, “Someone did it out of naivety, some out of stupidity, some for money, and someone just wanted to buy insurance in order not to do justice one day.”
- The Minister of Justice’s decision disappointed him Maria Kolíkova. “What Robert Fico is accused of is extremely serious. Using political power in any way to reconcile the dissidents, these were the practices of a totalitarian regime and I thought that would never return to Slovakia,” he wrote.
- According to the chairman of the coalition party SaS and the Minister of Economy Richard Sulik It means the result of the biggest loss in OLaNO’s political career. “And he was defeated not only by his favorite coalition partner, but also by his own lawmakers. They will never be able to talk about the fight against corruption again,” Sulík wrote on Facebook.
The Prosecutor’s Office asked for parliamentary approval so that Fico can file a lawsuit to be tried in custody. Prosecutors say Fico may have sought to influence witnesses or otherwise hinder investigations. Prosecutor Fica wanted to remain in detention pending all interrogations, possibly until the end of May. The extension of the parliamentary debate thus played out in favor of the former prime minister.
In Slovakia, parliamentary immunity is limited to ten years. Members may be prosecuted for misdemeanors or crimes without the consent of parliament. However, this is necessary for detention.
The prosecution can prosecute Fica, but only widely, thanks to parliamentary immunity.
Robert Fico has repeatedly described his prosecution as a political revenge and an attempt to liquidate the opposition.
14 days ago, a National Crime Agency investigator charged Fica with a variety of crimes, including forming a criminal group, abuse of power by a public official, and other crimes. Robert Kaliňák, Fico’s former interior minister, is also indicted in a case called Soumrak (the Smer party is located on Soumračná Street in Bratislava).
Among the defendants is the well-known lawyer Marek Para, who represents people associated with the Direction and, for example, the gangster Marian Kočner. Kaliňák and Para are currently in custody – neither are members of parliament.
According to investigators, Fico led the group, which provided compromising materials on possible tax crimes of his political rivals – specifically, the head of the (current government) political movement Ordinary People, Igor Matovic, and former President Andrei Kiska.
The allegations submitted to the Reports List are based on statements from former leaders of the Slovak police and tax administration. These top officials mostly took office during the last decade of Yön’s rule and remained loyal to their political bosses at the time. But under the weight of the investigation, they talked about how they helped protect classified information, which Fico later used to harm rivals, from police and tax filings.
For example, the use of information in election campaigns.
Direction between the three strongest sides
In the five years since Matovič announced “about the base”, Slovak politics have been turned upside down. Fica was forced to resign from community-wide protests after the murder of a journalist, and the party split, resulting in crisis.
Under the weight of the lawsuits, arrests, and suspicions that were beginning to emerge around Fico, the Head of Direction seemed politically entrenched. But the Covid-19 pandemic and the split in the far right meant for him a new political opportunity, which a seasoned politician wisely seized.
Direction’s popularity soared again. In recent months, Smer has moved up around 14 percent to second and third places, alternating with the SaS coalition party. Pellegrini’s Vote would now win the election.
The party, which has a fairly open relationship with Putin’s Russia, has opted for a harsh rhetoric even after the start of the war in Ukraine. Prime Minister Eduard Heger and President Zuzana Čaputová refer to Fico and his colleagues as “warlords” because of Kiev’s Slovak military support.
Source: Seznam Zpravy
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