Slovakia will hold early election in Sept, pro-Ukraine stance at stake

February 01, 2023 04:06 AM AEDT | By Reuters
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(Reuters) - The Slovak parliament approved on Tuesday plans to shorten its four-year term by five months and to hold an early election on Sept. 30 after the centre-right cabinet lost a no-confidence vote and parties failed to form a new majority administration.

The government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger lost the no-confidence vote in December after a former coalition party joined the opposition, which accuses the cabinet of not doing enough to help people with the rising cost of living.

The election will see a clash between pro-Western liberal and conservative parties and two leftist formations including the Smer party of ex-prime minister Robert Fico who opposes sending weapons to neighbouring Ukraine and has adopted a sceptical stance on Western sanctions against Russia similar to that of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Slovakia, a NATO and EU member, has so far been a strong backer of Ukraine, supplying infantry vehicles, artillery and a battery of the S-300 air defence system.

The cabinet's fall followed years of fiery leadership of the main government party, OLANO, by anti-corruption campaigner Igor Matovic, who clinched an unexpected election win in 2020 on promises to clean up graft following a Smer-led administration.

Matovic became prime minister but soon got into a series of conflicts with his coalition partners. He was forced to step down in favour of party colleague Heger, who was seen as a calmer leader, after secretly agreeing a shipment of unapproved Russian coronavirus vaccines in March 2021.

Matovic stayed on as finance minister but his continued clashes with the libertarian SaS party chief Richard Sulik led to SaS's departure in September 2022, costing the cabinet its majority.

Opinion polls have given Smer and an offshoot called Hlas (Voice) of another former prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, a lead over the parties in the outgoing government.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller in Prague, writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Gareth Jones)


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