Slovak parliament refuses to lift immunity for populist former PM Robert Fico

Robert Fico, who was a populist ally of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán while serving as prime minister, has been facing criminal charges since he left power

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Ivan Vilček, Právo
In this Sunday, March 6, 2016, file photo, Robert Fico, the then chairman of the SMER-Social Democracy, smiles after a TV debate after Slovakia's general elections in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

Only 74 members of the Slovak parliament out of 150 present voted on Wednesday to life the immunity of former prime minister and current chairman of the Smer-Social Democracy party Robert Fico.

During the vote, 19 deputies abstained, and 8 did not vote at all. The opposition leader and current MP is therefore not in danger of losing his immunity.

Fico faces charges for the alleged establishment, conspiracy, and support of a criminal group, and abuse of power by a public official. The Smer-Social Democracy chairman strongly denies the allegations and considers them an attempt at revenge and to silence Slovakia’s populist opposition, which also remains opposed to Slovakia’s deeper military integration with the United States.

“The government has not been able to persuade its coalition deputies to vote in favor of this decision,” said Peter Pellegrini, the former prime minister and chairman of the Voice–Social Democracy opposition party.

“They wanted to put the opposition party leader in prison. They have no proof against us,” Fico said after the vote. “They do not know what to do with us, but that is their problem.”

It was apparent in advance of the vote that the whole opposition would be against the extradition of Fico. However, the situation among the members of the governing coalition was unclear. The members of We Are Family, led by Boris Kollár, but also a number of the members of Ordinary People and Independent Personalities, led by Igor Matovič, were hesitant to lift Fico’s immunity, with their votes against the move proving to be crucial in the end. The vote failed by only two votes.

Prior to the ballot, Pellegrini warned that they had no guarantee that putting any deputy in the hands of justice would not be an act of political revenge.

“Based on what has been happening here for the last two years, I must say that Slovakia is not a democratic and legal state today,” Pellegrini claimed. “No one, not only members of parliament but no citizen of Slovakia, can feel 100 percent safe today. No one can rely on the fact that, even if he has done nothing, no state prosecution body can prosecute him or punish or influence him in any other way or restrict freedom,” the former prime minister added.

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