Former Slovak PM scuffles with ex-interior minister on election campaign trail

Igor Matovic (L) and Robert Kalinak (R) scuffled on Wednesday during a campaign event  (via REUTERS)
Igor Matovic (L) and Robert Kalinak (R) scuffled on Wednesday during a campaign event (via REUTERS)

Former Slovak prime minister Igor Matovic and ex-interior minister Robert Kalinak scuffled on Wednesday after Matovic drove up a pick-up truck mounted with the slogan “we will not hand you over to the mafia” to Kalinak’s campaign event.

Matovic has long accused SMER-SSD and its leaders, which include Kalinak and three-time premier Robert Fico, of being corrupt and sees them as his main rivals.

Fico's party is currently leading the opinion polls with an agenda to end military aid to neighbouring Ukraine. Matovic's party OLANO were in power before its coalition fell apart last year and a caretaker cabinet was appointed in May 2023.

On Wednesday, Matovic drove a pick-up truck to Kalinak's televised SMER-SSD news conference and, through mounted loudspeakers, accused him of poor immigration policies when he was interior minister in Fico's cabinets.

Kalinak went to the car and knocked on the driver's windows as the former PM's aides scrambled to disconnect the speakers at the back of the truck.

Matovic then opened the door, and Kalinak leaned in and tried to grab the microphone from him, while Matovic tried to push him away and swore at him, calling him a mafioso.

Video footage showed Matovic kicking at Kalinak and another SMER-SSED punching Matovic before police intervened to separate the two sides.

Police said an investigation was underway.

Several politicians condemned the chaotic scenes, saying it had no place in modern politics.

Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka said: “This is exactly what it's not supposed to look like. Targeted provocation, profanities, kicks and punches to the face. A fight between former prime minister Matovic and former interior minister Kalinak. They've dragged Slovak politics to a new low.”

Matovic had to quit as prime minister in 2021 amid a spate of coalition infighting and policy U-turns.