People took to the streets again in their thousands throughout Slovakia today to send a clear signal that they will not be appeased or silenced by the cheap tradeoff offered by outgoing PM Robert Fico, whose party would remain in power and hold all the same ministries.
Today’s protests up and down the country were crucial, coming just one day after PM Robert Fico staged his escape as prime minister, handing in his resignation along with the entire government, only to form an almost identical copy with just a few personnel changes.
An estimated 50-60,000 people packed SNP Square in Bratislava, even more than in previous protests, with around 12,000 in Kosice and thousands of others protesting in every major town.
The country is at a standoff – the people against the system. As Robert Fico’s SMer-SD party prepares for another two years of its practices, the people are demanding fresh elections, and most importantly, a change.
The tripartite coalition (Smer-SD, Most-Hid and the nationalist SNS party) are trying to dig in and hold onto their power, but while they will form a quasi new government, the pressure looks set to remain and possibly intensify. Smer’s regional headquarters in Zilina was torched with a burning tire last night, while Most-Hid has received death threats and a warning that its headquarters would be burned down.
Today’s show of defiance in every part of the country should be enough of a signal for politicians in power to allow early elections, but that will now not be so easy without constant public pressure or new revelations from journalists. Another option would be if Prime Minister-in-waiting Peter Pellegrini were to take it on himself and revoke the offer to form a government.
Robert Fico’s last ditch solution to the current political crisis was a spit in the face of the people, an obvious insult to their intelligence, but today they spat it right back at him and his party.
The coming weeks in Slovakia will determine the country’s future, but it remains to be seen whether it can find the right medicine to treat the corruption cancer that has pervaded the country since the 89 Velvet Revolution. That means not only changing the government, but also the way people think and perceive their country, and who they vote in future.