An assassination attempt against Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico

T HE RETURN to power of Robert Fico, Slovakia’s populist prime minister, has been a continuous succession of bitter conflicts ever since he was elected last September to his fourth term in office. On May 15th this took a savage turn, when an unknown assailant shot Mr Fico while he was greeting constituents in Handlova, a town 140km east of Bratislava, the capital. The attacker fired three or four shots before he was overpowered by police, according to Aktuality.sk, an independent news site. Mr Fico was rushed to hospital. That attacker was reportedly a 71-year-old from the region, but no other information has been released by police.

Mr Fico is an extraordinarily divisive figure, who previously served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018. His Smer party was initially a populist left-wing outfit. But in 2018 he was forced to resign after the murder of Jan Kuciak, a journalist investigating the political activities of a prominent businessman. The murder touched off nationwide demonstrations against corruption, and led to the election of a strongly pro- EU president, Zuzana Caputova, and then to that of a reformist government. Mr Fico turned to an increasingly right-wing brand of populism to re-establish his political profile, allying himself with Hungary’s Viktor Orban, demonising immigration and vowing to end Slovakia’s support for Ukraine against Russia.

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