Failed Assasination Attempt Made on Slovakian President

Image: NY Times

By Aarav Sapra

Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia was shot multiple times in what is considered to be one of the most severe attacks on a European leader. This devastating incident, which was presumably sparked by the actions of Robert Fico, known for challenging the authority of leaders in the European Union, may have also fueled a fear that Europe’s polarized politics are slowly resorting towards violence. Mr. Fico was shot after emerging from the cultural center in the town of Handlova as he greeted a small paparazzi in Banikov Square. With the first shot fired, Mr. Fico doubled over at the waist and tumbled backward onto a bench as more firing was heard. Security officers hustled him into a black Audi a couple of feet away, half-carrying him to the rear door. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and then airlifted to another hospital for emergency surgery. The gunman was identified as a 71-year-old poet and was immediately wrestled to the ground by security officers. 

Mr. Fico began his three-decade political career as a Republican but, over the years, shifted to a Democrat. He served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018. In 2018, Mr. Fico stepped down as prime minister after weeks of mass demonstrations over the murders of a journalist, who was uncovering government corruption, and his fiancée. He was re-elected last year on a platform of social conservatism, nationalism and promises of generous welfare programs. However, his close ties with Russia may have also sparked some anger afterwards, as he is strongly opposed to military support for Ukraine. These friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other positions have put him outside the European mainstream. Similarly, like his ally Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, Mr. Fico has frequently criticized the European Union. He is delighted to present himself as an opponent against immigration and funding for civic organizations, too. Furthermore, during his reign as prime minister, Slovakia was one of the few countries that stopped sending weapons to Ukraine. Some of Mr. Fico’s allies in Parliament suggested that his liberal opponents had created the atmosphere for the shooting. However, the chairman of the opposition party “Progressive Slovakia”, stated he shared in the “horror” of the attack. He also stressed that the attacker was not a member of his movement or connected to his party in any way. 

The Slovakian prime minister may want to reconsider his decision about standing up as a leader for Slovakia. Part of his politics and beliefs may have stoked the anger of many of his people, which has manifested itself in acts of violence.