- Name :Robert Fico
- Age : 58 years old
- Function : Leader of the Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-SD) party, possible next prime minister of Slovakia
- Keywords : Populism, Pro-Russia, Resurrection
Why are we talking about it
This former prime minister (2006-2010 and 2012-2018) could return to power in the early legislative elections on September 30 in Slovakia. Polls give him 22% of the vote, which is technically enough to form a government.
A small country of 5.4 million inhabitants, Slovakia is one of the 27 members of the European Union (EU). So far, the pro-Western government has demonstrated strong support for its Ukrainian neighbor in its fight against the Russian invasion. It was the first NATO member to deliver combat aircraft to Kyiv (Soviet-designed MiG-29s) and hosted some 92,000 Ukrainian refugees on its territory. This foreign policy could, however, change radically under Robert Fico.
Openly pro-Russian, Fico affirms that “the war in Ukraine began in 2014 when Ukrainian fascists killed civilian victims of Russian nationality”, thus repeating the official Kremlin discourse. He thus undertakes to “immediately cease all deliveries of military aid to Ukraine”, opposes Kyiv’s candidacy for NATO and denounces EU sanctions against Russia. “It’s a bit like Donald Trump promising to throw Ukraine under the bus,” summarizes Maria Popova, professor of political science at McGill University and co-author of the book. Russia and Ukraine. According to him, Ukraine must negotiate immediately in order to stop the war. »
Black sheep of the EU
Through his positions, Fico is somewhat closer to the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, considered the black sheep of the European Union, due to his divergent policies. This second dissidence could complicate decisions in Brussels, believes Maria Popova. “If more countries adopt this pro-Russian position, it may create disunity within the European Union. This is worrying. »
Left-wing populist, Robert Fico does not come out of nowhere. He served as prime minister of Slovakia between 2006 and 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, before being ousted by anti-government protests that erupted after the assassination of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée. Kuciak was investigating murky ties between businessmen, politicians and other high-ranking officials. Fico and his former interior minister, Róbert Kaliňák, were indicted last year for forming an organized criminal group.
His spectacular return can be explained. Fico is experienced, charismatic, eloquent. He takes advantage of the dissensions among his adversaries (hence these early elections). Above all, he is riding on Russian propaganda, which appeals to part of the Slovak electorate. “People want it to end. Let the refugees come home. There is war fatigue,” summarizes M.me Popova. According to the Globsec think tank, Slovakia is one of the most pro-Russian countries in the EU. “The rate of respondents who believe that Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine is only 40%”, compared to 85% in Poland and 71% in the Czech Republic, we can read in its 2023 report.
Nothing is certain yet for the favorite. According to a poll published Thursday in the Slovak daily Sme, the liberal Progressive Slovakia party of Michal Simecka (current vice-president of the European Parliament) follows closely with 18% of the vote. The left-wing Hlas-SD party of Mr. Fico’s former ally, Peter Pellegrini, is third with 14%. Mr. Fico did not rule out the possibility of a coalition with the far-right Republic party, in fourth place, with 8%. In this fragmented political landscape, Fico’s victory cannot be “decisive”, concludes Mme Popova. “He will not have the stability of Orbán, who consolidated his regime. He may be able to form a government, but it will be fragile…”
With Agence France-Presse