At 10.15 pm the Slovak government failed to pass the test of a confidence vote, which Prime Minister Iveta Radicova brought on by combining it with the crucial vote on increasing the capacity of the EFSF bailout fund for the eurozone.
The ritual suicide by the Slovak government coalition took place before the eyes of the world and the markets, and although the EFSF bill will most likely be passed anyway with the help of the opposition party Smer-SD, the Slovak government in its current form is at its end.
In a final appeal to the consciences of the 124 present MPs, PM Radicova begged them to unite and not put Europe and the world in the same kind of situation again. This appeal fell on deaf ears, though, as the vote ended as expected with 55 for, 9 against and 60 abstaining from the vote.
Did the three coalition parties really think they could use the potential fall of the government to blackmail the SaS into backing off from its stance? If it were a game of poker, then with the right poker face they might just have got away with it, but with such a principal rejection of the current EFSF proposal by the SaS, surely they should, and could, have played their hand differently.
By combining the vote, it was obvious that Fico’s Smer-SD party would not vote at all, and without any agreement the SaS party was also not going to just kneel before the coalition and be subversive. Radicova, supported by the rest of the coalition, basically handed all the chips to her predecessor Robert Fico, who couldn’t believe his luck after the PM announced yesterday that she would link the two issues.
Now the ball falls into President Ivan Gasparovic’s court, and he will most likely opt to hand the baton of power back to his old ally Robert Fico and his Smer-SD party, which would then get the chance to form a government. There are various possible constellations here, such as combining forces with the Christian democrats of the KDH party.
The President could choose one of the coalition MPs to head the government instead of the PM, but this is an unlikely scenario. Another option would be to hold early elections, which the Smer-SD party of Robert Fico would certainly win, as it has led the polls with around 40% for some time already.
At a press conference after the failed vote, a clearly angry PM Iveta Radicova apologised to the people of Slovakia and called on SaS Richard Sulik and his ministers to be men and resign. She referred to the whole affair as an own goal, but who actually scored it is something to be debated.
Former PM and foreign minister Mikulas Dzurinda hinted that the next government could be composed of Fico’s Smer-SD, Sulik’s SaS and controversial Jan Slota’s nationalist party SNS, but this concept sounds more like populist rhetoric than a feasible option.
The coalition partners that were in favour of the EFSF will now combine with Fico’s Smer-SD to push through the bill and allow the eurozone to move forward as soon as possible. The only victim in this story is the Slovak Republic itself, as it shot itself in the foot and will now limp around Europe as that country that causes all the trouble over money. What happens now is anybody’s guess, because in this country nothing is written in stone.