Slovakia – PM loses confidence motion

In Slovakia, the government has lost a motion of confidence. The vote was linked to the passage of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).

The government, led by Iveta Radičová from the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), is a coalition of the SDKÚ, KDH, SaS, and Most–Híd. The coalition had the support of 77 of the 150 seats in the parliament.

The Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party is opposed to the EFSF. It announced that it would not support the bill. In reply, PM Radičová declared that the EFSF would be tabled as a motion of confidence in the government (Art. 115).

The vote was held on Tuesday. A total of 76 votes were required for the government to survive. This is because Art. 84 (2) states: “For a resolution of the National Council of the Slovak Republic to be valid, it must be passed by more than one-half of the Members of Parliament present”.

In the end, SaS did not vote and the opposition abstained as well, meaning that the government had the support of only 55 deputies. Therefore, the government lost the confidence vote and has fallen.

So, what happens now? Events moved quickly yesterday. PM Radičová will resign. President Gašparovič will be back in the country this evening, allowing him to accept her resignation. A caretaker government can be appointed. A second vote on the EFSF bill will take place. The de facto leader of the opposition, former PM Robert Fico of Smer, has announced that his party is likely to support the EFSF in a second vote. So, the legislation will pass.

Yesterday, SDKÚ, KDH, Most–Híd, and Smer reached an agreement to pass a constitutional act, which requires 90 of the 150 votes in parliament, to allow an early dissolution. The date of the election has already been pencilled in for 10 March 2012. This suits Smer because it currently stands at around 40% in the polls.

All told, the Slovak vote may not hold up the passage of the EFSF legislation, but it has caused a government crisis there. PM Radičová is being roundly condemned politically for having tied the EFSF vote to a confidence motion. She seemed to underestimate the resolve of the SaS to oppose the EFSF. She also ensured that Smer would be unlikely to support the bill because it could not support her on a confidence motion. She has now lost her position as PM, and elections will be held at which Smer is likely to be returned with a majority. If she had not tied the bill to confidence in the the government, then Smer may have supported it, the bill would have passed, and she might still be in office.

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