Reuters International

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Five members of Slovakia's junior coalition party, Siet, quit the party on Tuesday, but they said they would continue to support the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, the faction said in a statement.

The five dissenters, who remain members of parliament, have long criticised party chief Radoslav Prochazka for authoritarian decision making. Prochazka was replaced at a congress last weekend, but the rebels oppose the new leader, Roman Bercely, as well.

"We are leaving Siet as of today. We will continue to take part in fulfilling the government programme," the faction said.

The government comprises Fico's leftist Smer party, centre-right Slovak National Party, ethnic Hungarian Most and Siet. It is backed by 81 lawmakers in the 150-member parliament.

A spokeswoman for Smer said the departure would not have any effect on the governing coalition. Slovakia holds the rotating six-month European Union presidency until December.

The rebels said they would negotiate the possibility of joining Most (Bridge), a centrist party which aims to bring together Slovaks and the ethnic Hungarian minority.

Political analysts say the departure may lead to a shakeup at the transport ministry because Siet, now left with only two lawmakers, may lose the power to nominate a minister.

Siet has been the weakest link among the four coalition parties since they formed a government after an inconclusive election in March. Even before the coalition agreement was signed, it lost three out of 10 lawmakers who refused to join a Fico-led coalition.

Despite polling as the runner-up to leftist Smer in most opinion surveys before the election, Siet only won 5.6 percent of the vote. It has since slipped further and polled just 1.4 percent in the last poll by Focus agency, released in June.

(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova, editing by Larry King)

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