Slovaks to hold third nationwide protest after PM’s resignation fails to appease

By Tatiana Jancarikova BRATISLAVA, March 16 : Thousands of Slovaks will attend a third nationwide protest in as many weeks on Friday to repeat their call for early elections after Prime Minister Robert Fico’s resignation failed to quell public anger over high-level corruption.

Fico’s government has been in crisis since the murder three weeks ago of 27-year-old investigative journalist Jan Kuciak who reported on fraud allegations against businessmen with political ties. The identity of his killers remains unknown.

Kuciak’s death provoked Slovakia’s biggest protests since the fall of communism in 1989, and some of the biggest to hit central Europe in the past year where people have marched against attacks on courts, corruption in politics and tightening rules for international universities. On Thursday the long-serving Fico stepped aside, handing the government reins to a deputy after his leftist Smer party and its coalition partners agreed a change of prime minister to keep the government going. His interior minister resigned earlier this week.

But critics say Fico will continue to hold sway and few expected his resignation to appease the protesters, who are due to start gathering at 1600 GMT.

“Let’s finish what our parents started in November ’89,” Slovak march organizers said on the event’s Facebook page, which showed 23,000 planned to turn up. “Let’s stand up for a decent Slovakia and let’s not give up!” Fico has vowed to remain an active party leader. His close ally Pellegrini was expected to announce appointments next week.

“As Smer chairman, he will continue to tutor the new prime minister,” Martin Slosiarik from the Focus polling agency said.

Just before he was found shot dead along with his fianc?e at his house outside of Bratislava, Kuciak had been looking into suspected mafia links of Italians with businesses in Slovakia.

In his final report published after his death, Kuciak said one of these Italians had once been a business partner of two Slovaks who later worked in Fico’s office. Both have resigned but deny connections to the murder. The Italian businessman has denied any mafia connections.

More than 23,000 people said on Facebook they would still attend the rally in capital Bratislava, while thousands were expected to march in other towns.

/Reuters

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