A Resigned Igor Matovic
European People’s Party: EPP Summit, 15 October 2020 (CC)
From Foreign Policy:
When he entered the prime minister’s office in March 2020, Igor Matovic represented hope for many Slovaks. His party came to power on an anti-corruption platform, promising to renew a political system discredited by corruption, cozy ties to shady business interests, and poor public services. Active on social media, the unorthodox politician had built an image as a tribune of the people, who had grown dissatisfied with Slovakia’s ruling elite.
But by this April, Matovic—facing one of the weakest approval ratings of any Slovak prime minister—captured global attention when he resigned over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Grappling with a massive second wave, he negotiated a secret deal against the wishes of his coalition partners to import 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which lacks European Union regulatory approval. Slovakia’s drug regulator later refused to authorize the use of the first 200,000 shots that were imported, finding they “did not have the same characteristics and properties” as the version of Sputnik V reviewed favorably in the Lancet, a British medical journal.
Under fire for the deal with Russia, Matovic stepped down as prime minister to save the four-party coalition government. The pandemic may have shaped his legacy as leader, but his own chaotic style of governance also marked his year in power, creating tensions within the ruling coalition and antagonizing many potential allies. Ultimately, Matovic’s resignation may signal to similar politicians in the region that a party with a well-meaning anti-corruption agenda and grassroots support can easily stumble in the face of a crisis—with a long way to fall.