Attack on Fico: what comes next in Slovakia?

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and seriously injured on Wednesday, remains in a critical condition. Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj has appealed to politicians, the media and the public to stop "to stop piling attacks, expressions of hate, on social networks, in the media, which are aimed at this or that political camp,". The pro-European outgoing president Zuzana Čaputová and her successor Peter Pellegrini, who is close to Fico, made a show of unity in a joint appearance on television. Commentators see the polarised situation in the country as a breeding ground for such crimes.

Denník Postoj (SK) /

Agree on common rules

Denník Postoj comments on the initiative led by Čaputová and Pellegrini:

“Today a very important step was taken: the outgoing president Zuzana Čaputová and her successor Peter Pellegrini convened a meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary political parties at the presidential palace. ... However, this must not be confined to a merely symbolic gesture which leaves behind nothing more than photos in the newspapers. No one is calling for mutual embraces, but the polarisation of society is so pronounced in Slovakia today that it is the duty of politicians to initiate a real debate on how it can be reduced. They will not find miracle solutions, but they can at least discuss a common denominator, a set of goals and rules that can be agreed on across the political spectrum.”

Jozef Majchrák
Die Presse (AT) /

Non-violent political competition, please!

Die Presse calls on politicians to moderate their tone:

“The more intransigent the political camps are towards each other, the more likely it is that this attitude will be transferred to their supporters in a dangerous way. ... In particular at the beginning of campaigning for the EU and [Austrian] National Council elections, this somewhat pastoral warning is indispensable: the more objective the debate, the more moderate the tone, the more moderate the words, the greater the empathy for the opponent’s position, the greater the chance that the political debate will remain what it should be — a non-violent contest between the best ideas, with the voter as referee.”

Asamer Florian
Népszava (HU) /

No sign of bridge building

Népszava sees no signs of the incident leading to a rapprochement between the political camps:

“The mutual accusations have already begun. ... So far there hasn’t been any trace of self-reflection or a search for answers to the question ‘Where did we ourselves go wrong?’ According to certain politicians in the governing coalition, the liberal press is to blame because it ‘demonised’ Fico’s policies, and also the progressive parties and politicians. ... Slovakia is facing difficult times: the first signals give no indication of any intention to establish social peace.”

Mária Gál
Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

The opposition as scapegoat

Ukrainska Pravda assesses the attack’s potential impact on Slovakian domestic politics and the European elections:

“The current government is unlikely to retract its claims that the opposition was responsible for the assassination attempt. This could strengthen the position of Fico’s Smer-SSD party in the elections to the European Parliament. ... Discrediting the opposition would in turn weaken its ability to resist authoritarian change in the country. Already, the attack has forced Progressive Slovakia to suspend its protest against the Fico government’s destruction of the public TV broadcasting service and its transformation into another mouthpiece of the state leadership.”

Jurij Pantschenko
Tvnet (LV) /

Little impact on power structure

Even in the event that Fico should succumb to his injuries, Tvnet does not believe in rapid political upheaval:

“The likelihood that what has happened now will lead to major changes in the Slovakian government is quite slim, because Smer would retain a dominant position in the government even in the event of Fico’s death and there is no legal basis for new elections. In April, Peter Pellegrini, [who is supported by Smer] won the election with 53 percent of the vote and will take office on 15 June, so the party’s position is quite secure at the moment. The liberal opposition, on the other hand, needs to think seriously about its next steps if it doesn’t want to fan the flames of widespread violence in an agitated society.”

Linda Anna Dāldere (SK) /

Despicable and unforgivable concludes:

“In a democratic world, something like this is unacceptable. Violence and obscenities are penetrating deeper and deeper into our lives. We are experiencing a period the likes of which we haven’t seen since the founding of Slovakia. The polarisation of society and increasing radicalisation are taking on enormous proportions. Every decent person should condemn the attack. It is a terrible act that has shocked everyone who values human life, human rights, freedoms, justice and democracy. ... But under no circumstances should it unleash another wave of hatred. That would not help anyone.”

Peter Bárdy
Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Failed dreams have driven radicalisation

The assassination will deepen the political rifts in the country, Rzeczpospolita fears:

“Fico is the system. Fico is the king of Slovakia. And now someone has fired shots at the king. Or at the system? We don’t know which. ... Slovakian society is traumatised, polarised. A large part of it has succumbed to the populists and radicals, which can be explained in part by the failed dream of turning Slovakia into an economic tiger state in the Tatra Mountains. Fico, too, liked to play the role of populist, radical and nationalist. And in former times, in the days of the tiger dream, he favoured the role of the progressive European and social democrat.”

Jerzy Haszczyński
The Moscow Times (RU) /

Democracy coming up against its limits

Difficult times lie ahead for Slovakia, The Moscow Times predicts:

“Nothing like this has ever happened in Slovak history. The country’s constitution doesn’t even contain mechanisms for the temporary transfer of power in case the prime minister is incapacitated, and in fact the government would have to be formed anew if Robert Fico were to die. ... It is also clear that regardless of the prime minister’s state of health, the confrontation between the populist, pro-Russian Slovak leadership and the pro-Western, pro-Ukrainian opposition will be exacerbated. And it cannot be ruled out that the assassination attempt on the prime minister will be used by his allies and party colleagues to launch a decisive attack on democratic freedoms.”

Iwan Preobraschenski
Dnevnik (BG) /

Apparently an attack from the right

The attacker’s political profile is certainly not that of a typical Fico opponent, Dnevnik observes:

“Fico’s party friends and his radical right-wing coalition partners have been hounding and threatening the media and political opponents from pro-European circles. It seems, however, that the attack against the PM came from the opposite camp. ... Fico was shot at close range on Wednesday by a 71-year-old retired security guard who, according to initial investigations, has radical right-wing and nationalist views.”

Petar Karaboew
Új Szó (SK) /

Counter the factors that promote violence

Calming the tensions in society requires certain measures, writes Új Szó:

“Tensions over political views must be discussed in families, schools must talk to children about how to manage their emotions. ... Boundaries must be set to stem the overflowing tsunami of hate in social media comments. ... We need to burst the bubbles that many people voluntarily withdraw into in an effort to push discussions out of their lives. ... And we must curb the slanderous, irresponsible, hate-fuelled negative political campaigns and character assassination. Because all of this combined has led to a real attempted murder.”

Csaba Nyerges