Tens of thousands rally in Slovakia, demand early election

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied across Slovakia on Friday to demand an early election to resolve a political crisis set off by the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

Protesters took to the streets for the third straight Friday despite Thursday’s resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government. Those at the rallies blame Fico and the three-party coalition that will still stay in power of widespread corruption.

Last week they demanded a though investigation into the shooting deaths of reporter Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova in the biggest anti-government protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

Kuciak was reporting on alleged Italian mafia ties to Fico associates and corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer Social Democracy party.

On Friday, protesters chanted “Early elections!” Many called for a general strike.

“We need a new chance for a decent and just Slovakia, and that’s why we request early elections,” the organizers, who are not affiliated with any political party, said in a statement.

The rallies, some taking place in rain, were taking place in 35 towns and cities in Slovakia and more than two dozen places around the globe.

On Thursday, President Andrej Kiska accepted Fico’s resignation and asked Peter Pellegrini, Fico’s deputy prime minister, to form a new government. That move, which will keep the three-party coalition in power and avoid an early election, angered many Slovaks.

Organizer Karolina Farska said the coalition government’s efforts “to stay in power at any cost clearly proves that they want to sweep all the corruption cases under the rug — the cases that the slain Jan Kuciak was writing about.”

The protesters said they don’t believe the two slayings can be properly investigated under such circumstances.

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