Slovak Corruption Crusader Takes Helm of Country Frozen by Virus

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Igor Matovic, whose party won Slovakia’s general elections last month on a pledge to uproot corruption, was appointed prime minister just as the euro-area economy braces for the impact of the coronavirus.

Matovic was sworn in by President Zuzana Caputova on Saturday. His Ordinary People movement rules in a coalition with an anti-immigrant, anti-gay partnership group called We Are Family, the center-right start-up For the People and the liberal SaS party. Together they have a large-enough majority in parliament to change constitution.

He’s inheriting a country heading into recession after drastic measures to contain the virus crippled economic activity. The transition of power has also delayed the economic response to the outbreak. While neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic approved stimulus packages worth large chunks of their annual output, Slovakia has yet to unveil measures.

“He will have to do some firefighting quickly,” said Lubomir Korsnak, an economist at Unicredit Bank AS in Bratislava, Slovakia. “But the virus overshadows a bigger problem: the business model based on cheap labor has exhausted itself. The new administration must tackle this as well.”

By Monday, all four of the country’s carmaking plants — the backbone of Slovakia’s export-oriented economy — will have suspended production. Shops and cafes have been closed for more than a week as the number of Covid-19 cases began to rise.

“We are taking responsibility for Slovakia at a time when confidence in police and courts is minimal, when Slovakia tops corruption rankings,” Matovic said after being sworn in. “We’ll do anything to ensure that citizens will trust their state again.”

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