Slovaks yesterday voted in a general election, with the governing populists fighting for survival amid outrage over the 2018 gangland-style murder of a journalist whose stories exposed high-level corruption plaguing the eurozone country.
Allegedly a hit ordered by a businessman with connections to politicians, the killing of Jan Kuciak, which also took the life of his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, has become a lightning rod for public outrage at graft in public life.
Hit hard by the fallout of the murder, most surveys suggested that former Slovak prime minister Robert Fico’s governing populist-left Smer-Social Democracy (Smer-SD) party was running neck-and-neck with OLaNO, a surging center-right opposition party focused on rooting out corruption.
OLaNO even outpaced Smer-SD by 3.5 percent in a last-minute AKO/Focus agency opinion survey published this week in the neighboring Czech Republic to bypass a pre-election polling ban in Slovakia.
“Change is much needed here,” said Daniela Jonasova, a 35-year-old office clerk, who told reporters that she voted for OLaNO at a Bratislava polling station shortly after it opened.
“I like the way [OLaNO leader Igor] Matovic points out what is wrong in Slovakia — I believe he’ll bring a real change,” she added, referring to OLaNO’s anti-graft focus.
“The election is primarily about the desire for decency in politics,” Bratislava-based political analyst Radoslav Stefancik said.
“Instead of protesting against the ruling Smer-SD party on the streets, people will do so in polling stations,” Stefancik said.
The double murder triggered the largest anti-government protests since communist times and toppled Fico as prime minister, with his party colleague Peter Pellegrini taking over the reins.
It also propelled Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, a liberal lawyer and anti-graft advocate, out of nowhere to win last year’s presidential race in the country of 5.4 million people.
The double murder “has reconfigured the entire political scene, as new liberal-democratic parties emerged and immediately gained support, political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov said.
“The most likely scenario is the creation of a center-right pro-democracy oriented government coalition of six or even seven parties,” he added.
Having vowed to immediately push through anti-corruption measures should he win office, OLaNO leader Matovic, a 46-year-old lawmaker, appeared to have galvanized voter outrage over the murders and the high-level corruption they exposed.
An eccentric self-made millionaire and former media boss, Matovic set up “Ordinary People and Independent Personalities — OLaNO” a decade ago.
Analysts suggested that the media savvy, but unpredictable politician could become prime minister if he manages to unify the splintered opposition.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around