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Slovakia: Robert Fico urged to step down as party leader

Peter Pellegrini and Robert Fico in Bratislava

Bratislava, Slovakia – Former Prime Minister and vice-chairman of Smer-SD Peter Pellegrini called on party leader Robert Fico to resign.

Pellegrini calls on Robert Fico to resign from Smer leadership

During a press conference on Tuesday, Pellegrini, who was joined by several high-ranking Smer politicians, said that he had told Fico he should leave the party’s leadership for the sake of Smer-SD, the social-democratic party he founded in 1999.

“M. chairman today has the last chance to avoid the fate of Vladimir Meciar or Mikulas Dzurinda he has never wanted to follow. If he doesn’t want to tragically fulfill their motto – I founded the party and I will also destroy it – he has a unique opportunity today to give his party hope for a better future”.

“Smer-SD must be led by a leader who wants to fight and whom people will trust”, Pellegrini added, who already expressed his interest in taking up the mantle and becoming Smer’s next chairman. He also didn’t rule out quitting the party to go his own way if needed.

His comments came only a few hours after Robert Fico himself called for deep changes within Smer, “including in my position and behaviour so that we can win a general election once again”.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go, this party is my offspring”, he commented, suggesting he had no intention of leaving Smer altogether.

Following electoral defeats, Smer prepares for new era

Peter Pellegrini became Slovakia’s Prime Minister in 2018 in the wake of the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and mass protests which forced then-PM Robert Fico out of office.

At the time, Pellegrini’s replacement of Fico was widely seen as a mere symbolic gesture, and experts claimed that the Smer chairman kept pulling the strings of government behind the scenes.

Pellegrini’s latest comments suggest an internal power struggle, long in the making, is in full swing within the ranks of the once all-dominant party, which has ruled Slovakia for much of the past 14 years.

Smer’s popular support plunged in the wake of the killing of Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, and continued to plummet as the investigation into the gruesome murder revealed ties between high-ranking Smer politicians and Marian Kocner, the businessman accused of ordering the hit.

Smer has since then epitomised the scourge of corruption which has plagued the country for the past decades, suffering two major electoral defeats last year (presidential and EU Parliament) before eventually losing the parliamentary elections in March to the OLaNO party of current Prime Minister Igor Matovic.

Main photo credit: SITA / Diana Černáková

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