Slovakia’s political crisis escalated on Tuesday after the president rejected a proposed new government on the grounds that it was not fit to investigate the death of an investigative journalist that toppled the previous administration.
The head of state was concerned that the candidate for interior minister is not independent enough to lead the inquiry into the death of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.
The shooting of the reporter, who had been investigating alleged ties between senior politicians and a mob boss from Italy’s feared ‘Ndrangheta mafia, plunged the central European country into crisis and last week brought down the prime minister, Robert Fico.
Mr Fico, who had governed for 10 of the last 12 years, was replaced by Peter Pellegrini, a member of the same party.
Mr Pellegrini, the prime minister-designate, presented his proposed cabinet, which involved the same three parties that were in the previous coalition, but it was rejected by Andrej Kiska, the president.
The role of interior minister was to go to Jozef Raz, a political independent who currently works as the health ministry’s chief of staff.
It is a key role, because it is the interior minister who will oversee the investigation into the murder of Mr Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27, amid widespread skepticism over the impartiality of police, prosecutors and the judicial system.
Mr Raz is a friend of the last interior minister, Robert Kalinak, who had to resign last week over the crisis.
He attended Mr Kalinak’s 40th birthday party and told local media that they knew each other through the motorbike scene.
"The last thing we need is a discussion of who was motorcycling with whom or attending whose birthday parties," said the president.
He said the proposed government would unlikely be able to "ensure an independent investigation into the murders of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova and suspicions about the activities of organised crime (that Kuciak) was writing about."
The prime minister-designate “has to convince (people) that the new government will bring about changes that we are expecting," the president added.
“He has to create a stable government, whose composition, especially at the interior ministry, will be able to calm the tense atmosphere in our society.”
President Kiska asked Mr Pellegrini to come up with a new cabinet and present it on Friday.
That will coincide with more marches and protests around the country, in which Slovaks will again call for new elections and a thorough investigation into the assassination of the journalist.
It will be the fourth consecutive week of protests since the murder of Mr Kuciak and his girlfriend in late February.
Tens of thousands of people have taken part, in the biggest demonstrations the country has seen since the overthrow of Communism in 1989.
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