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Slovakia PM Resigns Following Outrage Over Murder Of Journalist Jan Kuciak

Protests over murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak

Slovakia was rocked by the murder of investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak, a young reporter investigating political corruption. The current Slovak government is now scrambling to retain power.

Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico has officially stepped down in order to temper the political crisis triggered by the killing of Slovakian investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak in late February of 2018.

Previously, Fico said he was prepared to quit on the condition that his social democratic party (Smer-SD) finds his successor. Fico appointed Deputy Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, a member of the Fico’s Smer-SD party, to form a new government

Fico’s shocking decision to step down is attributed to his desire to keep his three-party coalition in power and avoid any snap elections also known as snap polls. The prime minister added that snap polls could lead to instability and chaos.

Murder of Journalist Jan Kuciak triggers political chaos in Slovokia

Fico’s government was under fire after the slaying of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak, an investigative journalist, and his fiancé, Martina Kusnirova. Kuciak and Kusnirova were shot dead at his home in Velka Maca on Feb. 25. Kuciak, a reporter for aktuality.sk news, was investigating a large-scale corruption scandal involving Slovak politicians and an Italian crime syndicate.

Slovok police commanders are saying the motive behind the killing was likely his unfinished investigative work. The death of the couple angered Slovak civlians, prompting tens of thousands to stage a massive protest calling for the current government to step down.

Last Friday’s rally was the largest in the country since the anti-communism demonstrations of 1989.

Jan Kuciak investigated tax fraud

Kuciak’s writing focused for many months on company transactions linked to businessman Marian Kocner and a tax fraud scheme involving a luxury apartment complex in the capital Bratislava.

The location of the luxury apartment complex became the center of a political scandal linking Robert Kaliňak, Fico’s number two man and the Slovakian Interior Minister, to the development company. Robert Kaliňak and Marian Kocner both deny the allegations.

Yet Kuciak’s Facebook page shows that he reported in October 2017 to the local prosecutor’s office a threatening phone call he received from Kocner. “It has been 44 days since I filed a criminal complaint … for the threats. And the case probably does not even have a particular cop” said Kuciak.

Robert Kaliňak officially stepped down as well to maintain stability. Many felt Kuciak’s death would not receive a fair and independent investigation as Robert Kaliňak oversaw the police in his role as Interior Minister.

Jan Kuciak’s last article

In Kuciak’s unfinished work, the reporter wrote about the connection between alleged members of the Italian mafia and Robert Fico’s close aides.

His last published article was on Feb. 9. The headline read: “Italian Mafia In Slovakia; Its Tentacles Reach As Far As Politics.”

In early March, Slovak police arrested Antonio Vadalà, who’s lived in Slovakia for years, his brother Bruno and his cousin Pietro Catroppa, along with four other Italians in connection the Kuciak’s murder. All of the men arrested were released days later without charge.

Vadalà was arrested again on March 13th by Italian police in relation to an arrest warrant for drug possession. No person has been charged in connection to Kuciak’s death.

Corruption in Slovakia

Slovakia’s economic growth showed a satisfactory improvement in the last quarter of 2017. According to government data, the unemployment rate decreased to 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared to 8.0 percent in the third quarter.

In the second quarter of 2017, the rate of expansion hit 3.7 percent, with the volume of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) jumping by 3.5 percent in the last quarter of 2017.

The economic transition hasn’t appeased citizens or tempered cries of corruption. Slovaks are unhappy with how Fico handles corruption. Slovakia earned a score of 50 out of 100 on the perceived level of public fraud in 2017. Several local media outlets wrote articles claiming that companies linked to the 53-year-old Prime Minister Fico won tenders for several government projects.

What’s next for Slovakia?

All of the opposition parties are in favor of snap ballots, which is when an election is called for earlier than expected. A snap poll is unlikely.

Fico’s appointed successor, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini appears to have the necessary support to be confirmed. The ruling coalition says it has the necessary 79 votes.

Fico himself has avowed to stay a prominent member of the Smer-SD political party. He said after handing his resignation to the president: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not saying goodbye yet.”

Slovak citizens are not only angry with Fico but with the Smer-SD party as well. Pelligrini’s appointment may not improve the perception of a corrupt government.

Police are still investigating the Kuciak killing. Jan Kuciak has become a hero and Slovak’s are invested in seeing justice for his murder. Will current conditions prove ripe for a populist party uprising?

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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