Slovak opposition SaS leader says ready to start coalition talks

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2016 4:43 AM

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia's largest opposition party said on Tuesday it is ready to start talks with five other parties on forming a center-right government if current Prime Minister Robert Fico cannot put together his own coalition.

Richard Sulik, head of the economically and socially liberal but anti-immigration Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, said he believed he could find 87 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

"We are ready to seek what we have in common and we're ready for compromise," Sulik told journalists.

Fico has the first chance to form a new cabinet after his leftist Smer party won Saturday's national election but lost its majority in parliament. He may struggle to find partners, however, with six out of seven other parliamentary groups saying on Monday they would not join a Smer-led cabinet.

That would open the door to a very wide and possibly unstable center-right coalition led by Sulik, an economist who authored Slovakia's highly successful liberal tax reform in 2004. He wants to reinstate the flat tax after Fico's governments partially dismantled the system.

Sulik's party, a member of the same right-wing European Parliament faction as Germany's right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), brought down the previous center-right cabinet in 2011 when it refused to approve a bailout for Greece.

Like almost all Slovak political parties, SaS has said it will refuse to accept migrants under a system of quotas approved by the European Union last year.

But forming a center-right cabinet will not be easy.

Sulik would have to reconcile Most-Hid (Bridge), which seeks the inclusion of Slovakia's Hungarian minority, and the Slovak National Party (SNS) with record of harsh anti-Hungarian language. Its founder threatened at a 1999 rally to wipe out Budapest with tanks.

The SNS has significantly toned down its image under it current leader Andrej Danko, however, and Most-Hid said on Monday it could take part in talks involving the party.

(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Catherine Evans)