Zuzana Čaputová and Robert Fico fought together long before the parliamentary elections, which Fico’s Direction party won at the end of September. The future prime minister was sometimes rude to the president. A month ago, Čaputová filed a lawsuit against Fico for the protection of the personality justified by the constant spread of “gross lies and fabricated accusations”.
However, now the rivalry of this pair is moving to the level of the two highest representatives of the executive. And the first sharp clash begins. As expected, Čaputová is not satisfied with some of the candidates for ministerial posts that Fico presented to her. On Thursday, she announced that she would not appoint Rudolf Huliak, proposed by the SNS, as Minister of the Environment.
Huliak is the mayor of the Central Slovak municipality of Očová, but he acts more like a very peculiar representative of the hunting lobby (he is a member of the leadership of the hunting union and the chamber) and also as the chairman of the National Coalition party, which has military neutrality or withdrawal from the European Union on its agenda.
He became famous, for example, for offensive outbursts against environmentalists, demands for restrictions on nature protection in national parks or the promotion of free shooting of bears.
Last year, according to Denník N, he said that, as a leading politician, he would fly to Moscow “to apologize in every word and letter” for military aid to Ukraine. His statement that the international elites invented the climate crisis to deprive people of car ownership is also well known.
Symbolically, when the coalition agreement was signed on Monday, Huliak was absent because he was visited by the police due to allegations that he had defamed LGBTQ+ people.
“The proper functioning of the Ministry of the Environment cannot be ensured by a person who, with his statements, negates the long-term environmental policy of this state and the international obligations to which the Slovak Republic is bound,” Martin Strižinec, her spokesperson, justified Čaputová’s decision on Thursday.
The president also justified Huliak’s rejection by saying that he does not recognize the scientific opinion on climate change and claims that there is no climate crisis. According to her, the candidate is also disqualified for “publicly approving violent dealings with ideological opponents, especially from the ranks of nature and landscape protectors.”
In addition to Huliak, attention was also focused on Martina Šimkovičová as a nominee for the leadership of the Ministry of Culture, also proposed by the SNS. Like Huliak, she has a reputation as a nationalist politician with xenophobic views.
Šimkovičová is a former presenter of TV Markíza. She was fired from private television eight years ago after publishing statements directed at refugees. “They’re going…, prepare them some accommodation, a full pension, pocket money and show off the daughters so they don’t get bored with us,” she wrote on the social network at the time.
Even after that, she did not completely disappear from the public consciousness. She was elected as a member of parliament for the populist movement We are a family, but soon broke up with him. She later returned to moderating, this time on the “alternative” Internet TV Slovan, close to the then opposition around Fico and the nationalists.
Conservationists mainly protested against the possible appointment of Huliak, over 40,000 people have already signed a petition against him and another candidate for the SNS. Huliak also receives heavy criticism in some media.
“If a week ago we could hope that the most terrifying names in the leaked lists of future members of the government and state secretaries were just ducks, today we can no longer,” wrote Sme newspaper commentator Peter Tkachenko, who called Huliak a “subnorm.”
The proposal to appoint Šimkovičová was evaluated as a big surprise, but it also caused a wave of negative reactions, mainly from the art world.
“I didn’t expect anything, but it’s clear to me that it will be fun and that it will be a farce. I don’t know the lady at all, nor have I ever heard of her. After all, they could have approached someone from the street,” noted actress Emília Vášáryová.
It is quite obvious that Fico’s coalition was counting on the clash over the names of the ministers. This follows at least from the remark of SNS head Andrej Danek that Huliak and Šimkovičová will be candidates “in the first round”. However, after the negative opinion of the president, the SNS declared that it insisted on Huliak’s candidacy.
Čaputová could also have a problem with some adepts for the Direction. For example, for the post of foreign minister. Fico has already stated that he would like to entrust the leadership of the office to a “pike”, or a person without long experience in diplomacy.
At the same time, Slovak constitutional lawyers do not agree on the extent to which Čaputová can prevent the appointment of specific ministers. In the past, however, presidents have already forced a change of candidate several times. Čaputová’s position is more complicated in that only an official cabinet with limited powers currently rules, and the appointment of a proper government is thus more urgent.
We have updated and edited the article in connection with the President’s decision not to appoint a candidate for Minister of the Environment.