Slovak PM suffers shock election defeat after assassination bid


BRATISLAVA: Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico suffered a surprise defeat in EU elections to the opposition liberals on Sunday, weeks after he was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt, his party said. Fico’s left-wing nationalist Smer-SD party expressed “congratulations to the winner of the election, Progressive Slovakia” and its new European parliament members, on its Facebook page. Fico, 59, is an opponent of military aid to Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

The latest opinion polls had indicated that he was favourite to top the vote, in what was seen as a sign that the assassination bid had driven up support for his party. Progressive Slovakia (PS) won 27.81 percent of the votes in Sunday’s election, meaning six seats in the European Parliament, according to results widely reported in Slovak media ahead of their official publication. Smer-SD won 24.76 percent, yielding it five seats in the 720-member EU assembly.

Far-right party Republika came third with 12.53 percent and two seats, the results showed.

Fico was shot four times at close range on May 15 as he greeted supporters after a government meeting.

The alleged gunman, identified by Slovak media as 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder and remanded in custody.

In a video released on Wednesday, Fico blamed his opponents for fostering the “hatred” that led to the attack.

Political analyst Daniel Kerekes suggested the attack had mobilised PS supporters to vote just as much as Smer-SD ones.

“It is not only Smer-SD that has taken advantange of the attack. The opposition parties, particularly PS, whose voters are worried about the situation in Slovakia, have also made significant progress,” he told AFP.

PS chairman Michal Simecka, a former vice-president of the European Parliament, said voters had a sent “a very important message to this government: slow down, because you cannot do whatever you want.”

Turnout was higher than during previous EU elections in the country at just under 35 percent.__The Nation