PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has offered to swap roles with Finance Minister Eduard Heger, a proposal welcomed by the coalition parties and which could resolve a month-long government crisis.
Matovic said he had decided to drop all previous conditions for his resignation. He and Heger are from the ruling coalition’s strongest party, OLANO.
Slovakia has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the crisis erupted on March 1 after Matovic ordered a shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine without his coalition partners’ knowledge. He offered to resign last week but gave a long list of conditions.
“We won’t insist on meeting any of those conditions… we want to remove any obstacle preventing the coalition from coming back together,” Matovic said at a televised press conference on Sunday.
“Today at the OLANO leadership meeting, I also proposed a swap between me and Eduard Heger as finance minister,” he said.
Coalition party Sme rodina chairman Boris Kollar pledged his support for Heger as prime minister at the press briefing. Za ludi party chairwoman Veronika Remisova said her party backed Heger too for the top government post.
SaS, whose leader Richard Sulik has been Matovic’s most vocal opponent in the past weeks, also welcomed the proposal.
Heger, 44, is a trained economist who worked in various managerial posts before being elected in 2016 on OLANO’s ticket to parliament, where he served as the caucus chief.
The crisis hit the country of 5.5 million as it slowly emerged from its worst coronavirus wave to date, which has over-filled hospitals and put Slovakia among Europe’s worst-hit countries in recent weeks.
Slovakia has received 200,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccines, but has yet to start administering the shots, pending testing of the batch. It would be the second European Union country after Hungary to vaccinate with a product not approved by the EU drug regulator, EMA.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)