Europe

Slovakia journalist: Prime Minister Fico replaced amid scandal

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico looks on during a press conference in Bratislava on March 14, 2018. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would remain an active party leader

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has resigned after the murder of a journalist sparked a political scandal.

President Andrej Kiska said he would ask Deputy Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini to form a new government.

Mr Fico had offered to resign on Wednesday if the ruling coalition was allowed to finish its term.

The death of reporter Jan Kuciak has shone a spotlight on corruption in Slovakia, prompting nationwide protests.

The 27-year-old was working on a story linking high-level political corruption in Slovakia with the Italian mafia when he was killed in late February.

His fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, was also murdered in an attack at their home.

On 9 March tens of thousands of Slovaks joined a protest rally in the capital Bratislava, in what is thought to be the largest demonstration in the country since the fall of Communism in 1989.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their home

Seven suspects arrested in connection with the murders were released without charge last week, and President Kiska called for fresh elections or a "radical reconstruction" of the government to restore public trust.

The prime minister argued those options would undermine the results of the 2016 elections, and accused the president of "dancing on the graves" of the victims.

Mr Pellegrini and his new government will now have to pass a parliamentary vote of confidence.

The prime minister designate believes he already has the 79 votes needed to approve his new cabinet.

The PM's resigned - but will he still pull the strings?

Rob Cameron, BBC News, Prague

"Beware the Ides of March" they warned Julius Caesar, and while the situation in Slovakia is not quite as dramatic as the final days of the Roman Republic, 15 March will be remembered as the end of the Fico era. Standing stiffly in a ceremonial room at Bratislava's presidential palace, Mr Fico watched as his deputy and party colleague Peter Pellegrini was appointed to succeed him.

And there was a note of defiance as the outgoing prime minister told the president - "Rest assured, I'm not leaving politics, I want to be an active party leader".

That's what worries the opposition and the protesters who have filled public squares over the past two weeks. Robert Fico has been prime minister of Slovakia for 10 of the past 12 years, and though he might no longer play an active role in government, they believe he will still be pulling the strings in the background.

They say without a complete change of the guard in Slovakia, what they see as a culture of corruption and impunity will live on.

Organisers have promised a third round of protests on Friday - this time to demand early elections.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

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