By James Wright
Over 40,000 Slovakian citizens participated in a string of demonstrations beginning on March 9, according to The New York Times. The demonstrations are in response to the murders of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, according to Bloomberg.
Kuciak was investigating political corruption in the Slovakian government, led by Prime Minister Robert Fico. The journalist suspected that some government officials had ties to Italian organized crime groups, most notably the ‘Ndrangheta, according to The New York Times.
Kuciak was investigating whether the crime syndicates were stealing European Union aid funds and then using them to bolster Slovakian politicians, according to Bloomberg.
Kuciak and Kusnirova were both found shot dead in his home on Feb. 25, according to The New York Times.
“I really hope the murder will be solved,” said Peter Nagy, a protest organizer, according to The New York Times. “If it’s not, it’s going to leave a stigma in the society.”
The protests were the largest demonstrations in the Slovakia since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which toppled communism in the country, according to The Guardian.
Civilian anti-government protests have become commonplace in Eastern Europe in the past few years, according to The Guardian. The protests, which typically have little effect on policy, often focus on issues of corruption and political ties with Russia.
Fico’s reputation has been shattered over these latest accusations. Though the Slovakian economy flourished during his 10 years of service, protesters chanted, “Enough of Fico” and jangled keys during protests, a gesture reminiscent of anti-Communist rallies during the 1980s, according to Reuters.
Fico’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak resigned on March 12 after being blamed for botching the investigation into Kuciak’s murder and other corrupt dealings. Kalinak, who oversees the Slovakian police as interior minister, has become the fourth government official to step down, according to The New York Times.
“I think to fulfill my mandate I have to do everything to preserve stability in Slovakia,” Kalinak said, according to The Guardian.
Kalinak was Fico’s right-hand man for 12 years, according to The New York Times. Though he survived past scandals, the execution-style murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova was a chilling reminder for Slovakians who endured Communist rule.
“Politicians in power have lost our trust,” said protester Maria Kuliovska, according to Reuters. “We don’t trust them to guarantee an independent investigation. They have failed to investigate all previous scandals.”