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Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič steps down over vaccine crisis

by editor

Embattled Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič announced Sunday that he would step down, in an attempt to draw a line under a monthlong political crisis sparked by his unilateral purchase of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus.

Matovič said he will switch places with the current finance minister, Eduard Heger, who will become the new prime minister.

Speaking at the government offices in the capital Bratislava on Palm Sunday, he described his decision in religious terms. “On the eve of holy week, which we celebrate as a symbol of suffering, sacrifice and forgiveness, I decided to make a gesture of forgiveness towards the people who politically demanded my resignation as prime minister,” Matovič said.

Following his purchase of the vaccine, which has not yet been approved for use by the European Medicines Agency, cracks began to appear in the four-party governing coalition. Two of the parties — For the People and Freedom and Solidarity — said they would leave the government unless there was a Cabinet reshuffle and Matovič stepped down.

Over the past 10 days, six ministers have resigned in order to force the prime minister himself to step down. In addition, after Freedom and Solidarity chairman Richard Sulík resigned as minister of economy, the entire party left the government.

Matovič said he would no longer demand that his coalition partners meet any of the conditions he had set for his resignation a week ago. These included the condition that Sulík not return to the government.

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