‘This is fascism’ – Populist conservatives targeted with criminal investigations in Slovakia, including country’s former PM

Populist conservatives are often targeted with criminal investigations upon leaving office, such as former Czech PM Andrej Babiš in Czechia. Slovakia’s Robert Fico appears to be next on the list.

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
In this Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 file photo, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, right, gives a media statement, with Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak, left, in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AP Photo/Bundas Engler, file)

Former Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, a well-known ally of Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is facing down a criminal investigation related to “endangering tax secrecy” and “creating a criminal group” that could land him in prison for 10 years just as his opposition party surges in the polls.

Fico is not the only one facing criminal charges. Former Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, who served in the past the vice-chairman of Fico’s Direction–Slovak Social Democracy party and now works as a lawyer, has already been arrested by an elite police unit.

Fico, however, was not detained due to his status as a current member of the Slovak parliament, meaning his detention requires parliamentary consent.

Both Fico and Kaliňák have strongly denied the accusations, and Fico has pointed out that as the leader of Slovakia’s largest opposition party, he has a large political target painted on his back.

“We point out that the governing coalition messed up everything, dragged us into the [Ukraine] war, and turned Slovakia into an American governorate. Now, they have decided to liquidate the opposition. We have to stop this political revenge,” said the former Slovak prime minister, according to the Novinky.cz news outlet.

“They want to put me in prison for ten years, thereby eliminating the strongest opposition party. This is fascism. It is not possible to destroy the opposition by catching the opposition leader and cutting off his head in the Old Town Square,” Fico added, who apparently referred to the execution of 27 Bohemian leaders of the Bohemian Revolt by the Austrian House of Habsburg that took place in 1621 at the Old Town Square in Prague.

Slovakia’s left-leaning government targets largest opposition party

Slovakia’s left-leaning government is increasingly aligning itself against one-time conservative allies in Hungary and Poland, and moving closer to the left-wing establishment that dominates in Brussels. Conservative populists ranging from Donald Trump in the United States to former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš are facing criminal and civil investigations after their tenure in office, with critics arguing that these politicians are being made an example of by the establishment. Just as with Fico, Trump and Babiš are facing tax-related and financial investigations that carry potentially serious prison sentences.

Fico himself has been vocally opposed to Slovakia’s decision to build a U.S. military base and involve itself in the war in Ukraine. Slovaks appear to agree with his positions, at least in relation to the U.S. base. According to a recent public opinion, over 64 percent of Slovaks are against hosting U.S. troops and military bases on their territory. Polls also show that FIco’s opposition Direct–Slovak Social Democracy party is growing in popularity and has a good chance of returning to power.

The investigation, which relates to the so-called Očistec (Purgatory) case, could however derail Fico’s plans. It entails suspicions of corruption and police abuse while the opposition Direct–Slovak Social Democracy party was in power. Slovakia’s social democrats entered the opposition after their defeat in the parliamentary elections two years ago. Former police chief, Tibor Gašpar, and other former directors of elite police units, have also been prosecuted in the case.

“Finally, it’s the turn of those in the highest position in the structure,” Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remišová wrote on her social media platforms. “Fico should not hide behind a parliamentary mandate and give it up,” she added.

According to Fico, his accusation is a political order coming from the top Slovak government coalition. The former prime minister claims that this fictitious accusation came only because the governing coalition was in despair over his party’s growing position in the polls.

“They are just fools. They would hang us if there were a death penalty for political offenses in Slovakia,” Fico told during a news conference on Wednesday. “They would do it like in the 1950s in Czechoslovakia or the Nazis in the 1930s in Germany,” he added.

Fico also rejected the call from Remišová to resign.

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