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Slovakia Staggers Toward Early Elections as PM's Coalition Unravels


People gather at Slovak National Uprising (SNP) square during a rally under the slogan "For a Decent Slovakia," against corruption and to pay tribute to murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova on March 9, 2018 in Bratislava.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's government moved closer to collapse on Monday after his junior coalition partner called for early elections amid a political crisis sparked by the killing of journalist.

Junior ruling party Most-Hid (Bridge) said late on Monday, after more than eight hours of talks, it would seek a deal with coalition parties about leading the country toward a snap election or would leave the government if no agreement was made.

"We think this situation can be solved only by early elections," its leader Bela Bugar told reporters.

Slovakia has been thrown into political crisis after the murder in late February of a journalist probing corruption, sparking the largest street protests since the end of communism nearly three decades ago and pushing Fico's government to the brink.

The prime minister, in power 10 of the last 12 years, has fought to keep his three-party government intact. Earlier on Monday, Fico's closest ally in his Smer party, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, said he would resign - which Most-Hid had demanded since last week.

However, with street protests growing, Most-Hid raised its demands on Monday.

Fico's coalition holds a narrow majority in parliament. He could still seek to rule in a minority without Most-Hid but faces limited options for support.

The leader of the third coalition member, the Slovak National Party (SNS), said earlier his party would want an early election if the coalition loses its majority.

Bugar said he would seek a deal for the coalition to call an early election on its own terms. Opposition parties have also sought a no-confidence motion against Fico's government. Bugar said it was too early to say how his party would vote on such a motion.

The killing of reporter Jan Kuciak, shot dead at home with his fiancee, and his reporting have swelled public anger over corruption in the European Union member country.

Kuciak focused on tax fraud involving politically connected businessmen. Before he was killed, he had been investigating Italian businessmen in Slovakia with suspected mafia links. One of the Italians Kuciak wrote about had co-owned firms with two Slovaks who went on to work in Fico's office.

Both have resigned but deny links to the murder. Their Italian former business partner denies connections to the mafia.

No one has been charged in the killings.