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Thursday February 2nd, 2023 3:37AM

Thousands protest Slovak government, demand early election

By The Associated Press

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Several thousand people rallied in the Slovak capital on Tuesday to protest the government amid soaring energy prices and to demand an early election.

The protest was organized by the opposition leftist Smer-Social Democracy party of former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and included supporters of other groups, including the far right.

Fico blamed the coalition government led by Prime Minister Eduard Heger and President Zuzana Caputova for being partially responsible for the high inflation now hitting the EU nation, claiming that was due to their firm support of Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

Most speakers attacked the European Union's sanctions against Russia and praised Hungary for how it is dealing with the energy crisis.

Hungary is heavily dependent on fossil fuels from Russia, and last year signed a 15-year agreement with Russian energy company Gazprom for the purchase of natural gas. Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán has fought vigorously against EU sanctions imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine.

The Slovak government has been weakened after a junior coalition partner withdrew from the governing four-party coalition earlier this month, leaving Heger without a parliamentary majority.

The parliament is debating possible changes to the constitution to allow an early election either called by a decision by lawmakers or by a nationwide referendum.

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