Prime minister of Slovakia offers to resign amid popular fury over murder of investigative journalist
Slovakia’s embattled prime minister offered to resign on Wednesday amid a wave of popular anger over corruption and the murder of an investigative journalist.
Robert Fico has been under intense pressure to step down since Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were shot dead in their home outside the capital, Bratislava, last month.
Mr Kuciak, 27, had been investigating alleged links between government figures and the ‘Ndrangheta, the powerful Italian mafia based in the southern region of Calabria.
"Today I have offered my resignation to the president of the republic," the prime minister announced. "If the president accepts it, I am ready to resign tomorrow."
His offer came with one key condition – that his party be allowed to choose his successor.
That would ensure that the government, a coalition of three parties, remains in power, an arrangement unlikely to assuage the outrage of Slovaks who are calling for a root-and-branch purge of political cronyism.
Mr Fico made his announcement after agreeing on the plan with his coalition partners – the Most-Hid party, which represents ethnic Hungarians, and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party.
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The murder of Mr Kuciak and his girlfriend has prompted a wave of anger in Slovakia, with tens of thousands of people marching in demonstrations across the country and demanding that Mr Fico resign.
The protests have been compared to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which brought about the end of Communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.
“Fico has been fighting for his political life,” Sona Szomolanyi, a professor of political science at Comenius University in Bratislava, told The Telegraph.
“There are parallels with the Velvet Revolution. The present government has totally lost contact with reality, just as the Communist regime failed to realise what was going on in 1989.”
No one has been charged over the killing of Mr Kuciak, who was found dead, along with his fiancée, on Feb 25.
The government has been in crisis mode since the murders, with Robert Kalinak, the interior minister, resigning on Monday.
More demonstrations are planned for this Friday.
Mr Fico has dominated politics in Slovakia for more than a decade and was midway through a third term in office.
He has been in power for much of the past 12 years, overseeing a steady economy with growth expected to hit 4 per cent of GDP in 2018
But many ordinary people accuse him of failing to tackle cronyism and corruption in the country of five million people, which was part of Czechoslovakia until the "velvet divorce" of 1993.
Aktuality, the news website that Mr Kuciak worked for, has vowed to continue his investigations into alleged links between the political establishment and organised crime.
Amid fears for journalists’ safety, armed police officers are stationed outside the building that the news organisation occupies, and private security officers guard the newsroom.