Who is Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia?

Robert Fico, 59, played a key role in Slovak politics in the years after it gained independence in 1993 and served as prime minister longer than any other leader.

The country gained independence after the so-called Velvet Revolution, a series of popular, nonviolent protests in 1989 against the Communist Party in what was then still Czechoslovakia.

Fico, who had been a member of the Communist Party while in power, founded the Smer party in the late 1990s and began the first of his three terms as prime minister in 2006, serving for four years before moving into opposition after his coalition. missed an election. Slovakia is a landlocked country of approximately 5 million people.

The Smer party, which initially started on the political left but has increasingly embraced right-wing views on immigration and cultural issues, governed as part of a coalition. Much of the international debate over Fico's leadership in recent years has focused on his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, Slovakia's southern neighbor.

Fico returned to power in 2012 but resigned as prime minister in July 2018 following mass demonstrations over the murder of a journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, who exposed government corruption. The protests that shook the country were the largest ever seen since the Velvet Revolution; the protesters called for the resignation of the government and new elections.

Slovakia ranks high in independent press freedom ratings, but protesters had also sought deeper changes in the country overseen by Fico.

He returned to power in last autumn's elections, forming a coalition government after securing around 23% of the vote, having campaigned against sanctions imposed on Russia after it began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The country's ammunition should be sent to Ukraine, he told voters.

This stance, in a country where pro-Russian sentiment has been historically significant, has worried EU leaders in Brussels, who have said they fear that Slovakia could form a pro-Russian alliance with Orban and, potentially, the Italian leader, Georgia Meloni, who would hinder support for Ukraine in the European Union. At the time, this was also seen as a sign of the apparent erosion of the pro-Ukrainian bloc that Europe had formed after the invasion.

Slovakia's military contributions to Ukraine were negligible compared to countries such as the United States and Great Britain. But last year it became one of several European Union countries on Ukraine's borders to block imports of its grain, fearing it would weaken Slovakian farmers.

In April, a Fico ally, Peter Pellegrini, won the vote to become president of Slovakia. The position is largely ceremonial, but analysts say the victory strengthened the hold of Russia-friendly political forces in Central Europe, as Pellegrini opposed providing military and financial aid to Ukraine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *