In a stunning political comeback, Robert Fico just won a Slovakian election that could have far-reaching consequences. Is he the Donald Trump of Eastern Europe? Here is the full story.
From Castle to Scandal
Back in 2018, Robert Fico was riding high as the prime minister of Slovakia.
But then corruption charges and an investigation into his fiancé spelled a quick end to his days in office.
Years of Instability
Since then, of course, the world has weathered a vicious pandemic, and Slovakia itself has had trouble finding government stability.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
One of the big problems, it seems, is a fractured political scene that now features so many parties that none of them can get a real foothold.
Grinding to a Halt
Against that backdrop, Slovakia’s parliament ground to a halt in May of 2023, unable to move forward on anything due to so many competing interests.
Ruled by Experts
In the end, President Zuzana Čaputová threw up her hands and installed a technocratic board to run the country until parliament could get its act back together.
A Hopeful Election
The hopes for doing that rested at least partially on the parliamentary election that took place over the last weekend in September.
Back in the Limelight
And that brings Fico back into focus, much to his rivals’ amazement, disappointment, and maybe even disgust.
Not in the Clear
Fico’s corruption cases still aren’t behind him, after all. And the immunity he has in parliament by virtue of his previous position is constantly under attack.
He Brushed It Off
But none of that stopped Fico from running for parliament on the Smer ticket.
“Liberals Are Dangerous”
While the Smer party has historically been left-leaning or at least middle-of-the-road, Fico ran on a platform that stressed the dangers of liberalism and more progressive parties.
Progressives Surged Late
That message seemed to gain Fico a groundswell of support, and he led early polls.
But young Michal Šimečka of the Progressive Slovakia party made a late surge.
Down for the Count?
In fact, exit polls on the day of the election made it seem like Šimečka had won the whole shooting match.
A Stunning Comeback
But by the time 99% of the ballots were counted, Fico was claiming a 5-point victory.
Looking For Political Partners
The former prime minister now has a goal of forming a parliamentary coalition with other parties to gain a voting majority.
Ukraine in the Crosshairs
And if he accomplishes that, Ukraine could be one of the big losers.
Slovakia Has Bigger Problems
“People in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine,” Fico said shortly after the election results became clear.
A Russian Sympathizer
That’s not a surprising statement from Fico, who is well-known for opposing sanctions on Russia.
And he’s also pledged to help Ukraine rebuild eventually – but also to stop providing military support in the meantime.
Tides May Be Shifting
So if Fico achieves his goal and builds the voting power he dreams of, Slovakia will join Hungary as EU nations who lean more toward Russia than Ukraine in the ongoing war.
Hungary Hungry for Company
It’s a development that Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is looking forward to.
Just a Couple of Patriots
In fact, Orbán took to X (formerly Twitter) to congratulate Fico on his victory, adding that it’s “always good to work with another patriot.”
Just Your Imagination
If the story of Fico’s rise and fall and rise again, and of his scandals and political alliances, sounds familiar, well, it’s probably your imagination.
Separated at Birth?
Of course, have you ever seen Donald Trump and Robert Fico in the same room at the same time?
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Alexandros Michailidis. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not tactual people featured in the story.