Prime Minister shot

A stooge of Putin? The irritating figure Fico explains

16.05.2024 06:17

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico is fighting for his life after an assassination attempt. No other politician has captivated Slovakia like him in recent years. Fico's political decisions are highly controversial - and have always provoked anger and horror.

Several shots, great chaos and an image that sticks in the mind: in the middle of Europe, a shot head of state is dragged into a limousine by frantic bodyguards. His fate? Uncertain!

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot on Wednesday after a government meeting in the town of Handlová and is currently fighting for his life. He has since regained consciousness and is stable, Slovakian media report. A suspect has been arrested, but the background is unclear. A nation is in a state of shock.

Slovakia is deeply divided
Just a few days ago, the 59-year-old left-wing nationalist accused the liberal opposition of creating a hostile climate against the government. It cannot be ruled out that this could lead to violence, warned Fico. Slovakian political scientists recently compared the social division in the country with that in the USA.

Alarm bells have also been ringing in the European Union since Fico took over the reins of government. However, the reason for this is not the opposition's roar. Rather, it is the course that Fico has taken, which is acting as a fire accelerant in Slovakia, that is causing concern in Brussels.

The experienced politician - already prime minister for the fourth time - is regarded as an absolute irritant. The controversial reform plans of recent months are modeled on authoritarian blueprints: Control over media, a softening of anti-corruption laws and less aid for Ukraine. A policy that is meeting with resistance in Slovakia.

Huge protests against the Fico government
The public television and radio station RTVS, for example, is to be dissolved and transformed into a state-controlled institution called STVR. The coalition parties accuse the RTVS management of not reporting "objectively" and of being close to the liberal opposition.

There have recently been mass protests against the Fico government. (Bild: AFP/TOMAS BENEDIKOVIC)
There have recently been mass protests against the Fico government.

Fico's plans led to huge protest rallies in Bratislava at the beginning of May. The starting point of the processions is highly symbolic. Anyone walking to Slovak National Uprising Square in the capital will find a memorial to the journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, who were murdered in 2018. This is where Fico's opponents usually march off.

Ruined reputation and an unlikely comeback
Kuciak mainly researched the backroom machinations of Fico's Smer party. His main topic: systemic corruption and mafia connections to the underworld. His death led to the country's largest protests since 1989. Fico himself lived next door to one of the main suspects - and became the face of a corrupt Slovakia. A system that ultimately cost human lives. The left-wing nationalist, who could not be proven personally guilty in this case, had to resign with his entire cabinet under public pressure.

A woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag lights a candle at the memorial for Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. (Bild: AFP/VLADIMIR SIMICEK)
A woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag lights a candle at the memorial for Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.

The Russian war of aggression and political chaos in Slovakia paved the way for Fico's big political comeback. During the election campaign, the talented speaker took a much sharper stance and addressed the financial concerns of the Slovakians, driven by double-digit inflation rates at times. His campaign was also supported by Russian disinformation, which particularly caught on in Slovakia. A culprit for the economic misery was quickly found: Kiev. Ukraine is "one of the most corrupt countries in the world". Nobody knows how much of the aid for Ukraine "disappears somewhere".

Fico alienates his friends
Fico has already implemented his most important election promise to stop military aid to Kiev. At European level, Slovakia is increasingly appearing as a blocker alongside Hungary. The prime minister also questioned the sovereignty of Ukraine, which is "under the control of the USA".

The pro-Russian line of the Putin supporters in Bratislava recently prompted the Czech government to take an unusual step. Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced a temporary radio silence in protest against the current rhetoric of the former sister republic. There were "considerable differences of opinion" on foreign policy issues.

A friendly handshake
Fico's chief diplomat Juraj Blanár probably broke the camel's back. He recently had his picture taken with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Turkey - friendly handshake included.

But even at a national level, where it says Fico on it, there is a lot of Putin in it. Since his re-election, the 59-year-old has picked up where he left off before his forced resignation. Dozens of people in his inner circle are still under investigation because of the disclosed corruption swamp.

The passionate "anti-corruption fighter"
Fico is now busy filling key positions in the judiciary, the police and the civil service with people of trust. The special public prosecutor's office ÚŠP, which specializes in corruption offences, was completely scrapped as part of a judicial reform. In other words, the department that deals with cases involving high-ranking civil servants and members of Fico's Smer party.

His government denies critical media access to information. Although editors from the houses concerned are allowed to enter the Slovakian government building again - after a temporary ban - their questions will not be answered.

Further chaos to be expected
And now Fico has been shot down in public, just as he was about to enter into a dialog with citizens. He was on his way to shake hands, it was said. His attacker is apparently a 71-year-old writer. According to eyewitness reports, he pulled the trigger five times.

The government suggests that he acted out of political motives. Exact details are still unclear. However, it is clear that the attack primarily affects the Slovakian soul. Fico's nationalist coalition partner SNS is already talking of a "political war" and denigrating journalists as "filthy pigs". The government and opposition were already blaming each other for the assassination when it was not even clear whether their prime minister was still breathing.

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

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