President Zuzana Čaputová has now installed a technocrat caretaker cabinet headed by central bank deputy governor Ľudovít Ódor to run the government till the general elections scheduled on September 30May 22, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Eduard Heger addressing the media. (Photo: via Reporters Without Borders)
The political and economic crisis inflicted by the ongoing war in Ukraine has been causing political instability across European countries. While European leaders continue trying to politically and financially isolate Russia through sanctions and other punitive measures, the repercussions of this have led to worsening living standards in most of the countries, triggering widespread protests against their respective political leaderships. In Slovakia, the coalition government led by Eduard Heger, a staunch ally of Kiev in the war against Russia, lost its parliamentary majority in December last year due to internal differences over the failure to tackle soaring inflation and the energy crisis. While Heger continued in power as the head of a caretaker government, he was forced to step down earlier this month due to disarray in his coalition. President Zuzana Čaputová has now installed a technocrat caretaker cabinet headed by central bank deputy governor Ľudovít Ódor to run the government till the general elections scheduled on September 30. The new caretaker government also has to face a confidence vote in parliament within 30 days.
Heger became the prime minister of Slovakia on April 1 last year, heading the coalition government led by the conservative populist platform Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OL’aNO). He came to power following a reshuffle in the cabinet, which was demanded by the coalition partners to replace Prime Minister and OL’aNo chief Igor Matovic.
From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Heger was an active supporter of the Volodymyr Zelensky-led regime in Kiev and has also provided arms and ammunition, including a fleet of MiG fighters, helicopters, an air defense system, anti-tank missiles, etc. Meanwhile, an energy crisis brought on by sanctions on Russian oil supply and profiteering by energy giants spread across Europe over the last year. This led to a deterioration in living standards in Slovakia as well, with high fuel and food costs. Cheap gas from Russia was a major source of energy for Slovakia. In the wake of sanctions, inflation in the country hit 13.8% in April.
In the backdrop of the cost of living crisis last year, the Freedom and Solidarity Party (SaS) withdrew its support to the coalition government led by Heger and the minority government lost a vote of non-confidence pushed by the opposition in December 2022. 78 legislators supported the no-confidence motion in the 150-seat National Council. However, Heger continued to lead a caretaker government. On May 7, Heger resigned as prime minister, left OL’aNO, and joined the center-right pro-European party, the Democrats.
Meanwhile, in the latest opinion polls for the upcoming parliamentary elections, the left-wing populist party Direction-Slovak Social Democracy (SMER-SD), led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico is in the lead. Fico is a vocal opponent of Slovakia’s support to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.
Several sections are also dissatisfied with President Čaputová’s decision to appoint a technocrat-led caretaker government, rather than consulting the parliamentary parties. In his statement on May 11, Artur Bekmatov from the leadership of the Socialisti said that “by refusing to negotiate with representatives of selected parties represented in the National Council of Slovakia, president Zuzana Čaputovánot not only showed disrespect to tens of thousands of voters who voted for these parties, but also undermined her nominees. This is not the action of either a statesman or a bipartisan president.”