Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico resigned Thursday, amid a political crisis sparked by the murders of an investigative journalist and his fiancée.
The reporter, Jan Kuciak, 27, had been probing alleged mafia infiltration of Slovakia before he and his partner Martina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their home last month. Police said the killings were carried out by professional hitmen, likely in retaliation for his work.
The case, the first killing of a journalist in Slovakia, unleashed a wave of protest against the government, with Fico coming under pressure to resign. Kuciak’s reporting revealed one of Fico’s close aides, Maria Troskova, was the former business partner of an alleged member of the powerful Calabrian mafia, the ’Ndrangheta.
With pressure mounting, Fico accused Slovakian President Andrej Kiska earlier this month of colluding with the Hungarian-born billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros to destabilize his government. His attack on the president came after Kiska said of Kuciak’s killing: “A large number of people are convinced that this tragedy in many ways reflects Slovak reality in general.”
Some 50,000 people gathered last Friday in Bratislava’s main square to demand Fico step down; on Monday, the Most-Hid party, a member of his four-party ruling coalition, said it would withdraw from the government and call for early elections unless Fico quit.
Announcing his resignation at a news conference Thursday, Fico, who had been prime minister for 10 of the past 12 years, said he would remain chairman of his party, the social-democratic Smer-SD.
“I told the president: ‘Rest assured, I’m not leaving politics, I want to be an active party leader,’” he said. “My role will be to have the new prime minister’s back and push for priorities that are important for Smer: a clear pro-European and pro-Nato orientation.”
The president has asked Fico’s deputy, Peter Pellegrini, to form a new government.
Cover image: Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico during the press conference at Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland on 31 May 2017 (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images)