With all the controversy surrounding a contract signed by the Tax Directorate and shouts of crony practices, finance minister Ivan Miklos came up against Prime Minister Iveta Radicova (both from coalition party SDKU) as they have conflicting opinions about whether head of the tax authority Miroslav Mikulcik should leave his post or not.
Following a four-hour meeting of the SDKU board yesterday, PM Radicova had to concede that Mikulcik could stay in his job as the decision about his fate rested with finance minister Miklos, even though she still holds that the tax head should leave the post and should not have signed the contract in the first place.
When queried by the press as to whether the outcome showed that she was a weak prime minister, PM Radicova turned to Ivan Miklos saying “would you like to answer that one?”. Miklos responded by saying that a kind of compromise had been reached, referring to the fact that things would remain as they are until the results of an audit by the Supreme Audit Office (NKU) are known.
The outcome shows how the SDKU eventually rallied behind Miklos, leaving PM Radicova out in the cold. SDKU party head Mikulas Dzurinda played down claims of crony practices, saying there could be no comparison with cases under the previous government, mentioning in particular the ‘emission sales’ affair. Dzurinda also announced that the party had never laundered money and that clarifying the case was of prime concern for the party.
Ivan Miklos still sees no reason why Mikulcik should give up his post as nothing wrong has been done, but Miklos, the PM, the SDKU party and also its three coalition partners (SaS, KDH and Most-Hid) will all be waiting anxiously on the results of the NKU audit. Miklos and Radicova agreed to respect the NKU’s decision.
The Prime Minister is now under a lot of pressure, partly because her party did not side with her and partly because now the opposition has even more ammunition against her.
Leader of main opposition party Smer-SD, Robert Fico, announced yesterday that PM Radicova was the biggest liar in the history of Slovak politics (a lot of competition for that title) and that she had now become entangled in the web of cronyism and money-laundering within the SDKU. Fico’s Smer-SD party will therefore call a no-confidence motion on the Prime Minister after Easter, as Fico claims she no longer has the right to hold the post.
Fico claimed that this clear case of cronyism is being covered up with lies and being swept under the carpet. He also adopted the tactic of attacking the coalition partners of SDKU, referring to them as feeble and submissive to SDKU.
The other coalition parties are trying to be diplomatic and wait for the NKU audit, while finding it hard to show certain signs of disgust. This was most notable in head of SaS party Richard Sulik, who eventually just said that “as the SDKU, or rather Ivan Miklos, takes political responsibility, for me it is a closed affair”.
The contract in question is a 5-year lease agreement for the tax office worth around EUR 6.6 million to rent a building in Kosice, concluded with the company Nitra Invest, which is part-owned by a company based in Cyprus (TPE Holding), with anonymous owners, while the other partner is the district head of the SDKU in Nitra, Ondrej Scurka.
Mikulcik cancelled an earlier contract with the company VSH, to which the state now must pay EUR 483,000. Mikulcik claims, however, that this is not a contractual penalty, but payment for reconstruction work that VSH was, ironically, ordered to carry out under the former government of Robert Fico.