• Slovakia government moves closer to collapse

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's government moved closer to collapse on Monday after his junior coalition partner called for early elections amid a political crisis sparked by the killing of a journalist.

Junior ruling party Most-Hid (Bridge) said late on Monday, after more than eight hours of talks, it would seek a deal with coalition parties about leading the country toward snap elections or would leave the government if no agreement was made.

"We think this situation can be solved only by early elections," its leader Bela Bugar told reporters.

Slovakia has been thrown into crisis after the murder in late February of a journalist probing corruption, sparking the largest street protests since the end of communism nearly three decades ago and pushing Fico's government to the brink.

The prime minister, in power 10 of the last 12 years, has fought to keep his three-party government intact.

Earlier on Monday, Fico's protégé and closest ally in his Smer Party, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, said he would resign — which Most-Hid had demanded since last week.

However, with street protests growing, Most-Hid raised its demands on Monday.

Fico's coalition holds a narrow majority of 78 seats in the 150-member parliament. Fico could still seek to rule in a minority without Most-Hid but faces limited options for support.

The leader of the third coalition member, the Slovak National Party (SNS), said earlier his party would want early elections if the coalition loses its majority.

SNS and Smer are expected to react to Most-Hid's decision on Tuesday, Slovak news websites reported.

Opposition parties, also wanting early elections, have sought a no-confidence motion against Fico's government and need 76 votes to topple it. Bugar said it was too early to say how his party would vote on such a motion.

He said he would seek a deal for the coalition to call an early election on its own terms.

For early elections, 90 votes in parliament are needed.

SS

Mar 13, 2018 10:59 UTC
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