Labour Minister Richter Survives No-confidence Vote

Labour, Social Affairs and the Family Minister Jan Richter. (Photo by TASR)

Bratislava, April 7 (TASR) – Labour, Social Affairs and the Family Minister Jan Richter (Smer-SD) will retain his post, as the Opposition failed to oust him over the Clean Day scandal on Friday, garnering only 57 votes from the 128 MPs present for its motion of no-confidence in Parliament.

The vote on Friday morning took place following a more than 16-hours long debate that began at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

All present MPs from governing parties Smer-SD, Slovak National Party (SNS) and Most-Hid unambiguously backed Richter, while only SNS’s Jaroslav Paska abstained from the vote.

Meanwhile, Richter’s ouster was supported in the ballot by MPs from Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), OLaNO-NOVA, We Are Family, Kotleba-People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) and most Independent MPs. OLaNO’s Richard Vasecka didn’t vote.

The session was initiated by Opposition lawmakers, who cited the Clean Day resocialisation centre scandal as the reason why the minister should have been dismissed. Opposition parties Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and OLaNO-NOVA officially submitted a petition to that effect signed by over 50 MPs last week.

“The Labour Ministry and the Labour, Social Affairs and the Family Centre are holding a protecting hand over mistreatment and the abuse of children, a situation that can’t be allowed by any democratic country and people,” said SaS caucus leader Natalia Blahova on April 4 after submitting the motion, adding that staff who have dared to voice criticism concerning the situation at the ministry have been intimidated with the threat of dismissal.

The resocialisation facility came under fire following suspicions that minors were sexually abused there. The ministry recently decided not to withdraw the centre’s licence despite a recommendation by its accreditation commission that it should do so.

Blahova stated that Clean Day hasn’t been stripped of its licence despite gross violations of the law, while some other facilities have lost their licences for small transgressions.

Earlier this week, Richter expressed his “disgust” with the Opposition’s activities concerning Clean Day.

“I’m very disgusted, outraged and concerned about the nasty political rampage happening around the Clean Day resocialisation centre situation. I’m even more convinced that the moral mire and hyena-like behaviour of [people] craving power knows no boundaries,” said Richter, condemning what he called the misuse of children for political wrangling.

“SaS’s statements were defamatory, as they were accusing me directly or indirectly of serious unlawful activities bordering on criminal activities,” said Richter.

At the parliamentary session on Thursday, Blahova also read out the testimonies of children placed there and their parents, who decried bullying and violence perpetrated on children at the centre.

Prime Minister Robert Fico in Parliament later backed his minister, however, describing the Opposition’s initiative as absurd, stressing that the Opposition failed to table a single relevant argument for Richter’s ouster. At the same time he called the session’s opening speech by Natalia Blahova (Freedom and Solidarity/SaS), which clocked in at more than two-and-a-half hours, nothing but “old wives’ tales”.