BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said on Tuesday he would run for the post of Central Bank governor to replace Jozef Makuch, who announced his early departure on Tuesday.
Kazimir, 50, finance minister in centre-left governments since 2012, has often taken a tough line similar to that of Germany on euro zone policies toward countries that fail to meet their fiscal commitments.
He has been a loyal ally of the Smer party chief Robert Fico, but has also won praise for narrowing the public finance deficit, aimed to fall to zero next year, despite the government’s welfare spending.
Critics, including Slovakia’s main fiscal watchdog, say he could have used strong economic growth, underpinned by a booming car sector, to push for a faster consolidation of public finances.
Kazimir first joined politics when he became deputy finance minister in 2006-2010, overseeing the country’s accession to the euro zone in January 2009.
Viewed as a pragmatic technocrat in Slovakia, he first sought to leave party politics last year when he unsuccessfully ran for chairman of the EU’s single currency club, the Eurogroup.
The Slovak central bank governorship job came for grabs earlier on Tuesday when Makuch said he would quit as of March next year, ahead of the end of his mandate in January 2021. The decision was not a shock as Makuch had said in September he was considering an early departure.
He put that in connection with Slovakia’s 2020 parliamentary election, saying he wanted to protect central bank independence and avoid political wrangling that may ensue if — as polls suggest — the election produces a fractious parliament.
His decision is handy for Kazimir, as the ruling coalition now commands the narrowest possible majority of 76 votes in the 150-seat parliament. Smer remains the strongest party in opinion polls, but its support has slid by about a third since the last election, which may end its 8-year streak in power.
Makuch has been considered a swing voter between ECB President Mario Draghi and the more conservative German and Austrian policy view on the ECB governing council.
He was first appointed to the central bank board in 2006, and his first stint at what was then the Czechoslovak central bank the bank dates back to 1976.
Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Angus MacSwan