NewsSlovak leaders divided on anti-hate meeting amidst turmoil

Slovak leaders divided on anti-hate meeting amidst turmoil

The idea of the meeting was proposed by Czaputova and Pellegrini a day after the assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico.
The idea of the meeting was proposed by Czaputova and Pellegrini a day after the assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico.
Images source: © PAP | Vaclav Salek

11:46 PM EDT, May 18, 2024

The office of the current President of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, sent out invitations on Friday to the leaders of parliamentary political parties for a meeting with President-elect Peter Pellegrini on Tuesday. Čaputová and Pellegrini aim to issue a joint statement rejecting hate. Two coalition parties have not confirmed their participation in this meeting.

According to PAP, the meeting is seen as a gesture that could help end hate and deep divisions in the country. Čaputová and Pellegrini proposed the idea on Thursday, a day after the attack on Slovakia's Prime Minister, Robert Fico.

In the context of the planned meeting, President-elect Pellegrini proposed issuing a joint statement emphasizing core values and rejecting hate and aggression. Pellegrini expressed the belief that politicians should send a signal of solidarity and reconciliation. Four opposition parties have confirmed their attendance at the meeting. Their representatives believe the country needs a solid gesture to end the campaign of hateful slander and mutual accusations. This should be a clean break from the past at the "round table."

Not everyone confirmed participation in the meeting

The ruling coalition in Slovakia consists of three parties. The leader of one of them, the Voice of Social Democracy (Hlas-SD), is the President-elect. At the scheduled meeting, Hlas will most likely be represented by Interior Minister Matusz Szutaj Esztok. The participation of the President-elect’s party in the meeting raises no doubts.

The largest party in the coalition is Direction – Slovak Social Democracy (Smer-SSD). This is the party of Prime Minister Fico, who was seriously injured in the attack and is currently fighting for his life in the hospital. Following the attack, the forefront of the party, which won the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2023, became Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Deputy Chairman of Smer, Robert Kaliňák. When asked about his participation at the Presidential Palace meeting, Kaliňák responded that he knew about the invitation but had not yet had time to consider it and could not discuss it with the Prime Minister.

"We cannot move forward until there is accountability"

Kaliňák emphasized there was no doubt that Slovakian society needed reconciliation and mutual respect, yet, as he proclaimed, the way to achieve this was not through false political correctness. He added that Slovakia could not move forward until there was accountability for the statements of some politicians and journalists who labelled Fico as a criminal, dictator, or "evil that must be stopped."

Similar sentiments were expressed by another Deputy Chairman of Smer and Deputy Chairman of the Parliament, Ľuboš Blaha. In a social media post, he distanced himself from the meeting, accusing the opposition of still "spreading hate while Robert Fico lies in the hospital." Blaha is a politician who last year was banned by a court from calling President Čaputová an American agent or a traitor.

The strongest opposition to the planned meeting came from the leader of the most minor coalition party, the Slovak National Party (SNS), Andrej Danko. "What do I have to do with Čaputová?" he said. He added that Fico is the only person who can tell him to go to the Presidential Palace on Tuesday. "If Robert Fico says we should cooperate, I will stand beside Smer," emphasized the SNS leader.

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