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How Will a Slovak Assassination Swing Central Europe?

State of the Union: A bizarre political hit against a canny populist may have far-reaching effects.

One of the most interesting things about the attempted assassination of Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico is that he was recuperating in a hospital named after FDR. The suspected gunman, per the Guardian, is a 71-year-old named Juraj Cintula. He is “an amateur poet and former security guard.”

Fico is an interesting character, a consummate survivor even by the standard of politics in Central Europe—a brutish looking man, with a very sharp understanding of whither the wind is blowing. He’s Orbanesque, both liberal and authoritarian, depending on the topic at hand. He has argued against aiding Ukraine, and opposed face masks during Covid, which bolstered his populist credentials. The Financial Times describes his checkered political journey: “Fico was a Communist before the fall of the Berlin Wall and positioned Smer as notionally social democratic, he has morphed into a nationalist conservative.” 


You get the idea. He previously had to resign due to the protests over the murder of a liberal journalist and his fiancee. European officials, as far as I know, are willing to work with Fico, given that, first, he is very intelligent and conciliatory in private, and, second, he isn’t a Panda-hugger. Friendliness toward China will be an increasing issue in European politics. 

But if there is one recurrent theme in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, it is that every tragedy results in more centralized authority. Keep an eye on what Fico will do the moment he is back in power.