Slovakia: Robert Fico is popular and polarizing at the same time

Slovakia: Robert Fico is popular and polarizing at the same time

Robert Fico is gunned down by a pensioner. After surgery, his condition remains critical. How could it come to this – and who is the Slovakian head of government actually?

For almost thirty years, Robert Fico has been one of Slovakia’s most popular, but also most polarizing, politicians. While the wealthy, educated middle class in the liberal capital Bratislava and other larger cities despise him, most residents of the economically disadvantaged peripheral regions revere him. This is regularly reflected in the results of parliamentary elections, in which the country splits into two completely different parts.

Fico’s political rise began in the 1990s as an inner-party rebel in the “Party of the Democratic Left” (SDL), founded by former reform communists. When the Left Party entered a coalition with conservative and liberal parties led by Christian Democrat Mikulas Dzurinda in 1998, Fico founded his own party, Smer (Direction).

By denouncing the rampant corruption of the Dzurinda government, he became the most popular politician for years and took over the leadership of a government for the first time in 2006. Since then, his opponents have only been able to temporarily oust him from power in two short phases from 2010 to 2012 and 2018 to 2023. However, his long reign meant that the former anti-corruption fighter was increasingly surrounded by free riders and shady entrepreneurs who wanted to get involved in power. Fico himself became a symbolic figure for corruption.

Journalist murder shakes country – Fico resigns

In 2018, the double murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova shook his power base. In the course of the murder investigation, the opposition media increasingly revealed suspicions of corruption that reached into the highest government offices. Under pressure from mass demonstrations, Fico was forced to resign. Since then, he has complained that the opposition and media outlets close to them organized a kind of coup by creating the impression that his government was directly involved in the murder of journalists.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which violated international law and which Fico had always condemned, his opponents have dubbed him a “pro-Russian” politician based on the model of Hungary’s Viktor Orban. In fact, Fico repeatedly makes critical statements against the “corrupt” Ukrainian leadership, but at the EU level he supports all sanctions against Russia without objection.

Source: Stern

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