Anti-Islam, Pro-Putin firebrand Robert Fico's party wins Slovak elections
The anti-Islam, pro-Russia SMER-SSD Party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico has on Sunday won Slovakia’s parliamentary election, with almost all votes counted across the central European country.
The election was expected to be a close run-off between the left-wing populist SMER-SSD and the centrist Progressive Slovensko (PS). But with 99.2 percent of polling stations counted, SMER-SSD was on 23 percent, with PS a distant second in 17 percent.
It is now highly likely that the 59-year-old former member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia will become Slovakia's prime minister for a third time.
Much of the media focus on the election campaign has been on Fico’s opposition to European support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, with the left-wing populist known for his pro-Putin allegiances.
However, Fico’s party winning by such a large margin is seen by many as being another shot in the arm for the increasingly anti-immigration and Islamophobic political landscape of Europe. It might be of particular concern to Slovakia’s Muslim community.
During his last tenure as prime minister, Fico gained a reputation for his extreme anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric, often defying EU protocols on migration.
In 2016, during the so-called refugee crisis in Europe, Fico declared that "Islam has no place Slovakia", adding that "the problem is that [Muslims] want to change the face of the country".
No mosques in Slovakia
In the same year, Fico publicly blamed the IS attacks in Paris in 2016 and racist conspiracy theories about Syrian refugees attacking German women on Muslim immigration to Europe and, more generally, on the presence of Islam in European countries, with him and his party supporting the 'Islamisation' conspiracy theory.
He also said that his government was "monitoring every Muslim in our territory".
During his last campaign for prime minister, Fico, against the backdrop of a banner reading "Charinme Slovensko" ("We're protecting Slovakia") behind him, said "thousands of terrorists and Islamic State fighters are entering Europe with migrants".
"I can tell you we will never bring one single Muslim to Slovakia," he announced.
On this, Fico kept his word, defying the EU's quota system and only bringing 180 Christian Syrian refugees to the country.
More worryingly, when Fico was last in power, he passed legislation introduced by his far-right coalition partners in the Slovak National Party (SNS) that barred Islam from gaining state recognition.
The law allowed religious denominations with at least 50,000 members to gain state rights – Slovakia has a Muslim population of only 5,000.
For this reason, Slovakia is the only member state of the EU without a mosque.
Fico's coalition partner, Andrej Danko said at the time: "Islamisation starts with a kebab and it's already under way in Bratislava, let's realise what we will face in five to 10 years."
Muslims are not the only minority Fico has targeted, with Romani and LGBT people also being scapegoated by his previous SMER-SSD governments. He has also been accused of legitimising the harassment of critical journalists.