Shocking Attack on Slovakian Prime Minister Sends Ripples Through European Political Landscape

A 71-year-old poet shouted to the Prime Minister. When the latter approached to shake hands with him, the old man shot him five times, hitting his arm and abdomen.

This is what happened in Slovakia, a small country in central Europe. At 2 p.m. local time on May 15, the country’s Prime Minister Robert Fizo was shot when he walked out of the government building to communicate with the people after attending a government meeting in Handlova.

This small country with a population of only 5.43 million rarely gets a prominent position in international news, but now it has become the focus of Europe. There is no other reason. This is the first time in 20 years that a head of government has been attacked in Europe, and it also happened in an EU member state, a place where the rule of law and social order are relatively stable.

But what is even more special is that Slovakia borders Ukraine and is close to the front line of the Russo-Ukrainian war. In this country where pro-Russian forces and pro-European forces are at odds with each other, Fizo won the parliamentary election with a far-right stance and relied on a “pro-Russian and anti-American” campaign platform. He immediately cut off military aid to Kiev after taking power. Coupled with a series of policies such as judicial reform and suppression of the media, this has caused serious divisions in the country.

The complex composition of the suspect also increased the complexity of the assassination. As a poet and former security guard, the suspect had openly opposed violence and tolerated immigrants, but he also joined an extreme pro-Russian organization and strengthened his anti-immigration stance. This confusingly labeled portrait of the perpetrator shocked European leaders.

At present, Fizo’s condition has stabilized, but he is not out of danger. The motive of the murderer is still under further investigation, but the “politicization” of the shooting case has begun. Fizo’s allies, government ministers, attributed the shooting to political motives, the result of a brewing effort by the opposition and the media. Interior Minister Matus Sutaj-Estok said Slovakia was on the brink of civil war.

On a larger level, the divisions caused by hate politics in Slovakia have unsettled Europe as a whole.

Poet’s Wrath

After the shooting, the police quickly arrested a 71-year-old local resident named Juraj Cintula and identified him as the lone assassin.

Local media contacted the gunman’s son, who said he did not know his father’s intentions, plans and actions, and denied that his father suffered from mental illness. However, it was confirmed that Qintula was a legal possessor of firearms: he once worked as a security guard in a shopping mall and was therefore qualified to hold a firearm.

Reporters visited the apartment complex where he lived. Neighbors across the wall from him said that Qintula had almost no suspicious behavior.

Centula is more active in art and likes to write poetry. He has published three collections of poems and is also a member of the Slovak Writers Association. People didn’t notice anything unusual about him. In the early years, he even founded an anti-violence movement organization. The slogan was: “We can be dissatisfied, but not violent!”

Due to Fizo’s clear pro-Russian stance, after the assassination, some media believed that the assassin might be a pro-Ukrainian person. But people soon discovered that Centula had joined a radical civilian armed organization, “Slovak Recruiters” in 2016. The organization had a significant pro-Russian tendency, but it had ceased operations in 2022.

The “poetry” he has published in recent years has a stance that is quite similar to Fizo’s opposition to the policy of admitting refugees, which was not the case in his early years. The turning point occurred in 2016, when he was working in a mall and was attacked by an immigrant man who was taking drugs. From then on, he completely changed his attitude towards immigrants.

However, Centula did not vote for Fizo during last year’s election, and neighbors said he opposed Fizo’s efforts to tighten the media.

When the Russia-Ukraine conflict breaks out in 2022, a direct consequence will be that the overall inflation rate in Europe is driven up. As a frontline country in the conflict zone bordering Ukraine, Slovakia not only faces inflationary pressure, but also suffers from the impact of Ukrainian refugees, allowing Fizo to find a gap to regain power.

As a country that belongs to the same Slavic nation as Russia, Slovakia has historically found the theoretical source of national independence with the help of the “Pan-Slavism” of the Tsarist Russian Empire, and the pro-Russian heritage among the people is profound.

In the 2023 general election, the Russia-Ukraine war became the focus. In surveys at that time, war was considered the most important issue facing the country, but on the issue of aid to Ukraine, supporters and opponents were almost equally divided.

This country, which is close to the front line of the conflict, quickly tore into two camps. Those friendly to Russia, those pro-EU and the West were fighting and criticizing each other.

Fizo played the card of opposing aid to Ukraine, opposing NATO and the EU’s eastward expansion, and combined with people’s dissatisfaction with the then pro-European government on people’s livelihood issues over the past few years, he finally succeeded in winning the right to form a cabinet for the third time.

After Fico returned to power, he immediately cut off Slovakia’s military assistance to Kiev. In January this year, he accused Ukraine of being “completely under the influence and control of the United States” and therefore “not an independent sovereign state.” Less than a year after taking power, large-scale demonstrations against Fizo broke out in the capital Bratislava almost every one or two months.

Recently, Fizo has been widely attacked on social media for advocating the closure of a public media that “spreads Western false information.” On April 10, he also warned that toxic social sentiment fueled by the opposition could lead to the murder of important political figures.

 Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a prophecy, and the victim was actually himself.

Whether they support or oppose Fizo, ordinary people are gradually intensified in this fiercely confrontational public opinion atmosphere. Similar to the murderer who attacked South Korean politician Lee Jae-myung, Chintura joined various civil political organizations with different stances, and eventually embarked on the path of physically harming politicians in an increasingly extreme and emotional environment.

Trump students

There have been huge changes in both political stance and personal appearance between Fizo when he first entered politics and Fizo now, as if he were two completely different people.

The 59-year-old “old fox” Fizo, who will be in power for the third time in 2023, gives the public the impression that he is populist, pro-Russian, Eurosceptic, and outspoken. But in 2006, the young Fizo, who became prime minister for the first time, was not like this.

He was one of the founders of the center-moderate left-wing party “Direction-Social Democratic Party”; at that time, Slovakia had just joined the EU for two years. Fizo and his party pursued a strict anti-corruption policy and had a clear break with the “old figures” from the Cold War period. cut off, while maintaining various left-wing measures with social welfare implications in the wave of marketization supported by the EU.

With the rise of Trump in the United States, many democratically elected leaders who originally had moderate stances have also “absorbed experience” from Trump, and Fizzo has also become a “Trump student.”

More than ten years have passed, he has been out of office twice, and now he is in power for the third time. The leader of the moderate left-wing party is long gone. Fizo, who transformed into “Slovak Trump”, has learned a whole set of Trump’s campaign philosophy: taking advantage of the anti-elitist sentiments of the lower class to humiliate reporters he doesn’t like in public; using social networks to convey all kinds of propaganda Conspiracy theories of “globalism” and “Jewish groups” weaken the credibility of national public institutions and cultivate people who are loyal to themselves rather than the country.

But this dose of “Trump’s prescription” has brought serious side effects. Slovakia’s political conflicts have gradually intensified due to Fizo’s long-term use of humiliating words and conspiracy theories to attack journalists, scholars, ethnic and sexual minorities and other groups. The camps that oppose and support Fizo no longer just compete in the parliament hall, but have brought their confrontational emotions to the streets of various cities.

Gone are the days when people with different positions could still shake hands and make peace when they walked out of the parliament hall. The two sides now have emotional and life-threatening curses on their lips.

On February 21, 2018, Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuchuk and his fiancée were found shot to death at short range in their home. Kuchuk focused on investigating corruption scandals at the top levels of the Slovak government. Before his death, he happened to be investigating the connection between one of Fizo’s assistants and the gang. He was believed to have offended Fizo’s power and was killed.

Kucuk’s death triggered a violent emotional reaction in Slovak society, and in March of the same year triggered the largest demonstration in Slovakia since the end of the Cold War. This scandal also contributed to the second collapse of the Fizo government.

After stepping down for the second time, Fizo’s actions were almost similar to Trump’s script today: while he was involved in lawsuits, he used social media to promote that he was being attacked by “Soros forces”, “globalists” and “Jews”. The persecution of the “group”, pretending to be a victim of the country’s elite machine, and finally waited for the opportunity to make a comeback.

It can be said that Fizo, who benefited from political division and division, eventually suffered backlash, and the hate politics fueled by his participation almost cost him his life.

 Europe is afraid

In the past, close contact between government leaders and ordinary people was not difficult in European countries like Slovakia. Especially after the end of the Cold War and Europe entering a period of economic prosperity, political assassinations have almost disappeared.

It is not new for the prime minister to take photos with people at close range, or to shop, drink and go shopping like ordinary people. In the past, the sight of a shirtless Fizo walking his dog on the banks of the Danube was not surprising to ordinary people.

 Today, this scene is gone forever.

 However, this impact is not limited to Slovakia.

Within the EU, Fizo is regarded as an outlier because he takes a different stance from most countries on the Russia-Ukraine issue. However, since the assassination, leaders from many EU countries have expressed their condemnation. Violence and even threats to personal safety caused by the deterioration of the political atmosphere have become a concern for a considerable number of European politicians.

Polish Prime Minister Tusk said he had also received death threats after Fizo’s assassination. Tusk also posted various screenshots of messages on social media accounts, including the words “Slovakia showed us how to deal with Tusk.” In Germany, which is more economically developed, there were three violent incidents attacking members of parliament in just one week.

As the European Parliament elections will begin in early June, the political atmosphere in the 27 member states has also become tense. Although the European Parliament is not a legislative body of a sovereign country and lacks livelihood issues directly related to voters. In some major decisions, it plays more of a role in making suggestions or conveying public opinion. However, the opposition in many countries regard this as The election is seen as a good opportunity to give the country’s rulers power.

The important diplomatic shifts of some EU countries will most likely be foreshadowed in the European Parliament elections. In the 2014 European Parliament elections, two years before the UK held the EU referendum, the UK Independence Party, which advocated Brexit, overwhelmed the ruling Conservative Party and the main opposition Labor Party in the UK, becoming the first party representing the UK in the European Parliament. Big party. According to predictions from the European political news website Euractiv, populist right-wing parties are likely to gain a lot in this election.

At the same time, in Eastern Europe, the “Putin Understanding Alliance” led by Hungary, Austria and Slovakia continues to expand, which will inevitably intensify the consensus among Europeans.

As geopolitics becomes more dangerous and many industries face a turn in the context of the ebb of globalization, many EU countries find it difficult to reach consensus on many issues.

Various factions in various countries use various life-and-death language to attack each other. The relationship between the ruling party and the opposition party is no longer as harmonious as it was in the past. This will inevitably intensify the division and division that this brings to the people.

The attack on Fizo has added more uneasiness to an already controversial European environment.

Who is the next “Fizo”? This may be something every European politician has to ask himself.

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