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Slovak opposition fails to oust Deputy Prime Minister over Sputnik V purchase – Reports

Prague: The opposition in Slovakia failed to achieve the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Igor Matovic over the purchase of 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine that were not used, which resulted in the loss of about $20 million, media reported on Wednesday.

As reported by Slovak broadcaster TA3, in addition to purchasing the Sputnik V vaccine, the opposition accused Matovic of weak leadership when he was prime minister, conflicts with ministers, and the cabinet’s failure to prepare for the third wave of COVID-19. Additionally, the lawmakers blamed Matovic for the absence of the tax reform he has been responsible for as the finance minister.

“Acting as prime minister or head of the finance ministry requires, first of all, serious and systematic work, which Mr. Matovic does not like and does not do. I hoped that the work in the government would change him as a politician and as a person, but this did not happen,” Peter Pellegrini, leader of the social-democratic HLAS party, said at the extraordinary meeting of the Slovak parliament.

A batch of 200,000 doses of Sputnik V was delivered to Slovakia on March 1, causing a political scandal because then-Prime Minister Matovic and Health Minister Marek Krajci did not inform either President Zuzana Caputova or her cabinet about the deal in advance. The government opposed the purchase of the Russian drug until it was approved by the European regulator. Six ministers left the cabinet and called for the resignation of Matovic and Krajci, which they both did.

The cabinet was reorganized on April 1. Currently it is headed by Eduard Heger, while Matovic has taken the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

Due to various delays, those wishing to be vaccinated with Sputnik V could apply for the shot only starting June 7, when a significant part of the country’s population had already been immunized. Moreover, the vaccine expires in July.

Last week, the cabinet decided to sell or donate remaining vaccine doses to other countries. The rollout of Sputnik V in Slovakia is scheduled to end on June 30. The opposition has estimated that the failure to use the vaccine cost the country about $20 million.

Some opposition lawmakers alleged that Matovic continued to steer the cabinet through Heger from his finance minister’s office.

However, due to the deputy prime minister’s position as leader and founder of the Ordinary People movement, which is co-chaired by Heger and plays central role in the ruling coalition, only the opposition voted in favor of his resignation. In total, 51 lawmakers cast their vote for ousting Matovic, falling short 25 votes.

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