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Fico Against Populism?

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Slovakia – The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is often seen as populist, asked his European counterparts to avoid referendums. Meantime, Slovakia banned vigilante patrols.

Robert Fico, the social-democrat Prime Minister of Slovakia, is seen as one of the main populist leaders in the European Union by many Western media. However, he fights strongly against the two main radical right-wing parties of Slovakia, the populist SNS and the nationalist L’SNS.

The fear of referendums

“I am asking EU leaders to stop with adventures like the British and Italian referendums (…) on domestic issues, which pose a threat to the EU,” said Fico, who ended his term at the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency January 1, Reuters reported.

But the hunger for the people’s vote in Fico’s own country seems unabated. The populist SNS party is calling for a referendum on the country’s membership of the EU and NATO. The party has to raise 350,000 signatures, and legal rules require a 50 percent turnout for the vote to be valid.

No vigilante patrols anymore

Unarmed members of “Kotleba — People’s Party Our Slovakia” (L’SNS)” — began patrolling the train network in Slovakia in April 2016 after a violent attack by a Gypsy on a Slovak passenger took place.

The nationalist party, which calls to quit the European Union and NATO, as do the SNS populist party (see above), decided to organize deter vigilante patrols in some trains in order to protect passengers from criminality they attribute mostly to the Gypsy community.

“Train security is the job of police and rail authorities”, the ministry of Justice said in August. Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska said nobody could replace the police in protecting citizens.

The L’SNS organised patrols on the Zvolen-Levice line, in central Slovakia, alleging that the police were failing in their duty to the public.