Slovak PM-designate chooses non-partisan for interior minister


Bratislava (AFP)

Slovakia's Prime Minister-designate Peter Pellegrini on Monday presented his cabinet, choosing a non-partisan official for interior minister in a bid to quell a public backlash triggered by the murder of a journalist probing corruption.

"For key government positions that have the potential of polarising society, we wanted to nominate people who will be able to calm the situation," he told reporters.

Pellegrini was chosen last week to lead a three-party coalition government in place of close ally Robert Fico, who resigned after the journalist's death sparked anti-government protests and raised fresh concern about media freedom and corruption.

Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, both 27, were found shot dead last month in their home near Bratislava.

Police said Kuciak's death was "most likely" related to his investigation into alleged ties between top politicians and Italian mafia.

Fico will continue to chair the Smer-SD party, whose deputy is Pellegrini, leading analysts to believe the outgoing premier will pull the strings behind the scenes.

"I have no doubt that Robert Fico will continue to manage part of the government," political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP.

"I could have imagined a more thorough reconstruction of the government," he added of a line-up showing little change.

Pellegrini did select Jozef Raz, a politically independent health ministry official, to take over as interior minister after Robert Kalinak resigned because of the political crisis.

"I did not want a member of any political party to take this position... We wanted a crisis manager who is not a party member," Pellegrini told reporters.

He also proposed former health minister Richard Rasi as new deputy premier and Smer-SD member Lubica Lassakova for culture minister.

Lawyer Gabor Gal, who is also a lawmaker for the Most-Hid junior coalition parter, will take over as justice minister.

If President Andrej Kiska approves the cabinet Pellegrini presented to him the new team will then face a confidence vote in parliament.

Fico said Monday he would focus on his work as Smer-SD leader.

"I want to be a professional party chairman, my task being to make clear what the party expects and what its possibilities are," he told reporters.