Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has said he will step down and swap roles with Finance Minister Eduard Heger, a proposal that could help resolve a month-long government crisis triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.
The political crisis erupted when a secret deal came to light three weeks ago involving Slovakia’s agreement to acquire two million doses of the jab. Slovakia is part of the 27-nation European Union, which has not authorised the Russian offering yet.
Matovic offered to resign last week but gave a long list of conditions, including that all his critics in the coalition should leave government.
“We won’t insist on meeting any of those conditions,” Matovic said at a televised news conference on Sunday. “We want to remove any obstacle preventing the coalition from coming back together.”
Heger said he accepted “the challenge” and would would immediately open talks with coalition partners on a possible new government. He was planning to meet President Zuzana Caputova on Monday for consultations.
The move was announced jointly in Bratislava after consultations between the party leaders of three of the four coalition parties. The approval of the liberal party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) was still outstanding in the evening. Its leader, Richard Sulik, resigned as minister of economy and deputy prime minister on Tuesday.
The three other governing parties have a slim parliamentary majority even without SaS.
Two parties in Matovic’s coalition government, Freedom and Solidarity and For People, which have clashed repeatedly with his Ordinary People party about how to tackle the pandemic, demanded his resignation as a condition for the coalition to survive.
Matovic has defended the Sputnik V purchase, saying it would speed up the vaccination programme in one of the European Union’s hardest-hit countries.
Slovakia has seen about 9,500 virus deaths in the pandemic.