Secret deal exposed a month ago involving Slovakia’s agreement to acquire 2 million doses of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine has plunged country into a crippling political crisis.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, right, appoints members of the new Government to be headed by Prime Minister Eduard Heger, left, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Thursday April 1, 2021.
Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, right, appoints members of the new Government to be headed by Prime Minister Eduard Heger, left, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Thursday April 1, 2021. (AP)

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova has appointed Eduard Heger prime minister, ending a month-long political crisis triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

President Zuzana Caputova appointed the new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Eduard Heger on Thursday two days after the previous government of Igor Matovic resigned.

It was the first European government to collapse due to its handling of the pandemic but the move kept the same four-party coalition in power and avoided the possibility of an early election.

The crisis erupted when a secret deal came to light a month ago involving Slovakia’s agreement to acquire 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.

The populist prime minister orchestrated the deal despite disagreement among his coalition partners.

Two of them, Freedom and Solidarity and For People, demanded his resignation in order for the coalition — which holds a comfortable parliamentary majority — to survive.

The crisis paralysed the government in one of the hardest-hit European Union countries. The nation of 5.4 million has registered 9,790 deaths.

Heger, who is a close ally of Matovic and deputy head of his Ordinary People party, served as the finance minister and deputy prime minister in the previous government.

Matovic is assuming those posts in the new government.

Beside that swap, the government has a new health minister and no immediate labor and social affairs minister who is expected to be appointed later. The rest remains the same.

READ MORE: Slovak PM Matovic steps down over handling of pandemic

After winning the parliamentary election on an anti-corruption ticket, Matovic struck a deal a year ago to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party; the conservative For People, a party established by for mer President Andrej Kiska; and We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that is allied with France’s far-right National Rally party.

OLANO won the election in 2020 with an anti-corruption agenda following the murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancée in 2018. A series of investigations have started since it came to power.

"I believe there will be accord and unity among us, because the clean-up of Slovakia still continues," Heger said.

The country of 5.5 million has seen the number of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations drop in the past few weeks, slowly descending from a peak last month during which it had ranked among the world's worst-hit countries.

READ MORE: Slovakia's election winner to form four-party government

Source: Reuters