Populist Slovakian Prime Minister Shot in Suspected Assassination Attempt

The shooting comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and right-wing parties appear poised to make gains.

AP/Petr David Josek
The chairman of SMER-Social Democracy party, Robert Fico, arrives at his party's headquarters at Bratislava, Slovakia, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. AP/Petr David Josek

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, was wounded in a shooting Wednesday afternoon and taken to a hospital.

Reports on TA3, a Slovakian TV station, said that Mr. Fico, 59, was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 100 miles northeast of the capital, where the leader was meeting with supporters. A suspect has been detained, it said.

Police sealed off the scene, and Mr. Fico was taken to a hospital in Banska Bystrica.

The shooting in Slovakia comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and right-wing parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.

The deputy speaker of parliament, Lubos Blaha, confirmed the incident during a session of Slovakia’s Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

Slovakia’s major opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, canceled a planned protest against a controversial government plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give the government full control of public radio and television.

“We absolutely and strongly condemn violence and today’s shooting of Premier Robert Fico” said Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. “At the same time we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps which could contribute to further increasing the tension.”

President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier.

“I’m shocked,” Ms. Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

Mr. Fico, a third-time premier, and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

Critics worried Slovakia under Mr. Fico would abandon the country’s pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Mr. Fico’s policies.

Condemnations of political violence quickly came from leaders across Europe, although no motive for the attack was immediately apparent.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she described as a “vile attack.”

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” Ms. von der Leyen said in a post on X.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the incident “shocking,” adding “I wish the premier to get well soon. We cannot tolerate violence, there’s no place for it in society.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia till 1992.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the social media network X: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

The New York Sun

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