Igor Matovic’s move comes after disputes with coalition partners over a secret deal to buy Russian vaccine against the Sputnik-V coronavirus.
Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has said he will step down and swap roles with Finance Minister Eduard Heger, a proposal that could help resolve a month-long government crisis triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s vaccine against the coronavirus Sputnik V.
The political crisis erupted when a secret deal emerged three weeks ago involving Slovakia’s agreement to acquire two million doses of the vaccine. Slovakia is part of the 27-country European Union, which has not yet authorized the Russian offer.
Matovic offered to step down last week, but gave a long list of conditions, including that all of his coalition critics should leave the government.
“We will not insist on fulfilling any of these conditions,” Matovic said at a televised press conference on Sunday. “We want to remove any obstacle preventing the coalition from regrouping.”
Heger said he accepted “the challenge” and would immediately open discussions with coalition partners on a possible new government. He planned to meet with President Zuzana Caputova on Monday for consultations.
This decision was jointly announced in Bratislava after consultations between the party leaders of three of the four coalition parties. The approval of the Liberal Freedom and Solidarity Party (SaS) was still pending in the evening. Its leader, Richard Sulik, resigned as minister of economy and deputy prime minister on Tuesday.
The other three parties in power have a weak parliamentary majority even without SaS.
Two parties in Matovic’s coalition government, Freedom and Solidarity and For People, which have clashed repeatedly with his Ordinary People’s Party over how to tackle the pandemic, demanded his resignation as a condition for the coalition’s survival.
Matovic defended the purchase of Sputnik V, saying it would speed up the vaccination program in one of the hardest-hit countries in the European Union.
Slovakia has recorded around 9,500 deaths from the virus during the pandemic.