Who is Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico?

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico has been shot and is in life-threatening condition in hospital.

Fico, 59, was injured after multiple shots were fired outside a cultural centre in Handlova, Slovakia – about 90 miles (150km) from the capital Bratislava – where the leader was meeting his supporters.

Images showed police detaining a suspect following the shooting, which the interior minister called an assassination attempt.

Deputy prime minister Tomáš Taraba called it a “brutal and ruthless” attack.

So who is Robert Fico, what party is he from and what is his political? The Independent takes a look below.

who is slovakia’s prime minister robert fico?

Populist prime minister Robert Fico, 59, was shot in the stomach in a ‘brutal attack’ in Slovakia on Wednesday (AP)

Who is Robert Fico?

Born to a working-class family in September 1964, Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico graduated with a law degree in 1986 and joined the then-ruling Communist party.

After the 1989 Velvet Revolution that led to the break up of former Czechoslovakia, he worked as a government lawyer and represented Slovakia at the European Court for Human Rights.

During a three-decade career, Fico has moved between pro-European mainstream and nationalistic positions opposed to European Union and US foreign policy.

What party does he belong to?

Fico has run the Smer-SD party since 1999 after establishing it to oppose the reformist centre-right cabinet. He had been turned down for a ministerial post by the Democratic Left, the political heirs to the Communist Party.

Fico, 59, returned to power in Slovakia last year. Having previously served twice as prime minister, from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, his third term, won in September last year, made him the longest-serving head of government in Slovakia's history.

After the win in 2006 – two years after Slovakia joined the EU – Fico kept the nation on course to adopt the Euro in 2009 despite forming a government with nationalists.

who is slovakia’s prime minister robert fico?

Security officers drag Slovak PM Robert Fico into his official car after the assassination attempt in Handlova (REUTERS)

Fico and Smer have most often been described as left-populist, though he has also been compared to right-wing politicians like the nationalist prime minister of neighboring Hungary, Viktor Orban.

Out of power in 2010, Fico’s party won again two years later after another centre-right coalition broke up. A tough stance against migrants brought re-election in 2016. After that win, he declared he wanted Slovakia as part of the EU's core with France and Germany.

Fico's political fortunes faded in 2018 when journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating allegations of high-level corruption, and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were killed by a contract killer. This fuelled mass protests against graft and Fico was forced to resign. Smer lost power in a 2020 election to parties pledging to weed out corruption, and his party split.

Fico has hit out at accusations of corruption that have dogged his party during his political career. He was charged with criminal conspiracy in 2022 to use police and tax information on political foes – charges he denied and which were later dropped.

What does he believe?

During a three-decade career, Fico has skilfully weaved between pro-European mainstream and nationalistic anti-Brussels and anti-American positions, while showing a willingness to change course depending on public opinion or changed political realities.

Polling at around 10 per cent in 2020, the Covid pandemic opened a door for Fico, who sought to address voter fears in slamming government health measures.

who is slovakia’s prime minister robert fico?

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico during a press conference in Moscow on 16 November 2009 (AFP via Getty Images)

"He became the most prominent political representative of a movement against face masks or vaccination," political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told Reuters.

At the same time he a tapped into dissatisfaction with bickering in the ruling government and raised doubts with its pro-Western course, chiming with pro-Russian narratives on social networks that had spread across Slovakia.

That is part of having embraced more extreme positions over the past four years that include strident criticisms of western allies and pledges to stop military support for Kyiv. He has also argued that Nato and the United States provoked Moscow into its invasion of Ukraine. He has also expressed opposition to sanctions on Russia and threats to veto any future Nato membership invite for Ukraine.

Fico certainly admires Vladimir Putin, having said that he would not enforce an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against the Russian leader if he visited Slovakia. That warrant came after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. He also respects Orban, who he says “defends the interests of his country and his people”.

After Fico’s latest election victory last year, the new government immediately halted arms deliveries to Ukraine. Thousands repeatedly took to the streets across Slovakia to rally against Fico's pro-Russian and other policies, including plans to amend the penal code to eliminate a special anti-graft prosecutor and to take control of public media.

Fico's return to power has caused concern among his critics that he and his party will lead Slovakia away from its pro-Western course. He vowed to pursue a "sovereign" foreign policy, promised a tough stance against migration and non-governmental organisations, and campaigned against LGBTQ+ rights.

Last month, the government approved a proposal to abolish the public broadcaster and replace it with a new body, sparking outrage of opposition parties who say that the government will then have control of public radio and television.

The same month, Peter Pellegrini, a Ukraine-sceptic and close ally of Fico, won a run-off vote in presidential elections against the pro-western opposition candidate, Ivan Korcok and will succeed Zuzana Caputova who has been vocal in her support for Kyiv.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

The Independent stands for many things, often uniquely so. It stands independent of political party allegiance, and makes its own mind up on the issues of the day. The Independent has always been committed to challenge and debate. It launched in 1986 to create a new voice and in that time has run campaigns for issues ranging from the legalisation of marijuana to the Final Say Brexit petition.

OTHER NEWS

23 minutes ago

'Concerns' as Blues stars fail to train with team

23 minutes ago

Eagles Land Two Receivers In PFF's Top 20 Rankings

24 minutes ago

Red Sox halt Orioles 5-game win streak

24 minutes ago

Top Free Agent Landing Spots For S Jamal Adams

25 minutes ago

Royal Family removes Prince Harry's 2016 statement confirming Meghan Markle romance from website

27 minutes ago

Kyle Sandilands reveals disgusting bathroom habit live on-air... and even glam co-host Jackie 'O' Henderson admits to doing it

27 minutes ago

Pregnancy mystery twist of Charlise Mutten's mother revealed in murder trial as tragic new details emerge

27 minutes ago

The grim map that shows nobody is safe from huge rain bomb: What you need to know about when it will strike your city

27 minutes ago

Social media influencer is called out after demanding almost $100,000 to promote a small business owner's brand

27 minutes ago

Teen sensation set for Socceroos debut

27 minutes ago

Byron Bay to Barcelona: Chris Hemsworth’s private chef shares his favourite dining spots

27 minutes ago

Pep Guardiola's role in Bayern Munich decision to hire Vincent Kompany

27 minutes ago

Cuts and tax relief take centre stage for NZ Budget

27 minutes ago

Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen set sights on €50 million rated Mainz wonderkid

27 minutes ago

F-35B test aircraft crashes in New Mexico

27 minutes ago

Heeramandi: Sanjay Leela Bhansali on how frustration between him and Richa Chadha led to perfect shot after 99 retakes

29 minutes ago

Nationwide soaking forecast as West's dry spell ends

29 minutes ago

Hackers claim they’ve stolen personal details and payment information of 560 million Ticketmaster users

34 minutes ago

49ers 90-in-90: Is it over for Ambry Thomas?

34 minutes ago

Trump accused of trying to ‘hoodwink’ voters with election conspiracy fueling hush money scheme

34 minutes ago

Ireland's 13-year-olds have fewer friends but better familial relationships than a decade ago

34 minutes ago

The Struggle Is Very Real For EV Maker Arcimoto

34 minutes ago

Letters: Our government should be saluted for taking the right stance on Palestine

34 minutes ago

Receivers are appointed over €6m in assets owned by businessman Colm Wu

34 minutes ago

Sunny spells and scattered showers forecast ahead of warm bank holiday weekend

34 minutes ago

Soccer-Saudi champions Al Hilal extend coach Jesus' contract

34 minutes ago

QRCS opens ‘Humanity First’ residential village in north Syria

34 minutes ago

Reinhart scores in OT, Panthers beat Rangers in Game 4 of East Final

36 minutes ago

Lupe Valdez loses primary runoff to Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown

37 minutes ago

Canadian woman exposes huge problem with Australian homes: 'Totally miss the mark'

37 minutes ago

In a new running back ranking, PFF has Isiah Pacheco right where he belongs

38 minutes ago

Opposed by top Texas Republicans and Trump, state House speaker survives GOP primary runoff challenge

38 minutes ago

Skinstad: You can’t coach Roos’ passion, but don’t forget Augustus

38 minutes ago

1 ASX growth stock that turned $10,000 into $21,000 in less than 2 years

38 minutes ago

Congress bets on ex-CM Charanjit Channi to wrest Jalandhar back in a field of turncoats

38 minutes ago

Celtics one step closer to snapping 16-year title drought

38 minutes ago

Texans, Nico Collins agree to massive extension that will pay WR more than Stefon Diggs in 2024, per report

38 minutes ago

Vikings sign rookie cornerback Khyree Jackson

38 minutes ago

Christie Sides Facing Backlash For Postgame Comments After Indiana Fever Loss

38 minutes ago

Pop star Dua Lipa to perform at Singapore Indoor Stadium on Nov 6