Milic: The attack on Fico could strengthen populist forces ahead of European elections

Source: Kosovo Online

Dimitrije Milic, Program Director of the "New Third Way" organization, assesses that the attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico could strengthen some populist forces in Europe more broadly, but that small countries like Slovakia still cannot influence changes in the European Parliament, which is due for elections on June 6.

Milic says that there is a general political polarization in the world, which is also reflected within the domestic political scenes in European countries, but he believes that the attack on the Slovak Prime Minister has its internal factors.

“In Slovakia, of course, it is additionally a controversial issue because it involves an attack on a Prime Minister who began his third term in October of the previous year and is one of the more controversial figures in Slovak politics. So it was a trend that also has its Slovak factors, meaning the dynamics of their internal politics,” our interlocutor says.

Regarding the effect this attack could have on the European Parliament elections, he explains that Slovakia’s influence is very limited, so it is more a question of the political atmosphere.

“There are 705 deputies in the European Parliament. Slovakia will only contribute 15 in the new elections, so these are marginal differences in terms of the results. It is more about the political atmosphere and whether citizens will actually be more inclined to support his party out of empathy. However, it should also be taken into account that there is a political divide in Slovakia where a significant portion of the citizens would never vote for Fico's party, which they consider populist, just as a significant part of Fico's electorate would never vote for the liberal parties that are much stronger in Slovakia's urban centers,” Milic said.

He notes that the latest polls show that right-wing forces will have some growth, but explains that it will still be limited.

“For a significant change in the EP to occur, it is important for right-wing forces to significantly strengthen in the largest countries, the most populous states, because they provide the most deputies. And that will be most evident in the results. For example, if Alternative for Germany had 30 percent, it would be much more significant than if the right-wing strengthened in many small countries,” the program director of the "New Third Way" says.

He assesses that the attack on Fico could give some populist forces a boost in a broader sense, but notes that Fico is a leader who originally does not come from the right-wing political spectrum.

“He is originally from the left-wing political spectrum, from the zone of reformed communists who became social democrats. However, over time, he changed his rhetoric, and on some issues, he moved to the right. So he is a very specific political leader and, when it comes to the attack on him, it is difficult to categorize whether it is an attack on some right-wing or left-wing policy, but it certainly is on some anti-system policy or, to some extent, euroskeptic, although he is not even entirely euroskeptic like Marine Le Pen or Alternative for Germany. So it is difficult to categorize, and for that reason, there are thousands of interpretations of why the attack actually happened,” our interlocutor says.

He believes that the attack on Fico will have more effect in terms of security, in the sense of increased security for all leaders, which, as he predicts, will happen not only in our region but across the entire European continent.

“An attack within an EU member state, an attack within a NATO member state perceived as a stable country, an attack on its Prime Minister in this way, an armed attack, I assume will tighten all security measures for all European leaders in Europe, because Slovakia is not the only country where there is polarization within society, and it is not the only country where there are certain people who have their fanatical visions that they will solve some problems themselves. So I believe that security measures for all political leaders in Europe will significantly increase in the future because there is greater skepticism regarding this type of trust in exposing leaders to the public,” Milic says.