Slovakia's minority government has fallen after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday, despite last-minute efforts to gain support among MPs.
The motion, tabled by Slovakia’s main opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party over soaring energy costs and inflation, was passed by 78 lawmakers in the 150-seat parliament.
At least 76 votes were needed to bring down the government, paving the way for early elections.
Three coalition lawmakers voted against the government.
The head of the ruling OLANO party and former populist prime minister, Igor Matovič, had previously offered to quit as Slovakian finance minister on Thursday to appease critics.
"My offer [to resign] stands if SaS withdraws its no-confidence motion, and supports the 2023 state budget proposal,” he told a news conference.
“I believe that SaS will accept a fair offer. People cannot be held hostage,” he added on Facebook.
The confidence vote was delayed by parliament on Tuesday, giving Prime Minister Eduard Heger a temporary reprieve to try to win over votes -- to no avail.
Heger’s 2023 budget plan included new spending and windfall taxes on the energy sector to offset the impact of soaring prices on households and companies.
Slovakia's four-party coalition took power in 2020 but lost its majority in September when the SaS quit the government in a row with Matovič over the handling of the energy crisis.
Matovič himself had led Slovakia’s government until last year when he stepped down after misleading his coalition about the purchase of Russian-made COVID-19 vaccines. Heger, the country’s former foreign minister, then swapped roles with the OLANO party leader.
But SaS leader Richard Sulík has repeatedly accused the government of incompetence and losing its anti-corruption drive.
On Friday, Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová formally dismissed the government, setting the framework for a snap election in 2023.
A two-thirds parliamentary majority would be needed to hold such an election. If that fails, Čaputová will select a new prime minister and swear in his or her government.
Heger's Cabinet has been asked to remain in office in a caretaker capacity with reduced powers.
The next election in Slovakia had not been due until February 2024.