ROBERT Fico, now in his second term as prime minister, will turn 50 next year, when the presidential election takes place. If elected, he would be the youngest ever Slovak president. He was born in 1964 in Topoľčany and in 1986 graduated from Comenius University’s law school. He is married, with one son.

Fico worked at the Law Institute of the Justice Ministry after graduation, and also served as an agent representing Slovakia in front of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission for Human Rights. He was politically active from a young age, joining the Communist Party of Slovakia in 1987. After the Velvet Revolution, he became a member of the Slovak Democratic Left (SDĽ) party, and became deputy chairman in 1998. In 1992 he was first elected MP. In 1998, Fico ran for the post of general prosecutor, but his party endorsed another candidate instead, arguing Fico was too young.

That same year the election brought down the government of Mečiar and SDĽ joined a ruling coalition of four parties led by the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). Fico received the biggest number of preferential votes among party colleagues.

In 1999, Fico left the party saying he was disappointed with the way the government worked and acted as an independent MP until the 2002 elections. Almost immediately after leaving SDĽ, however, he founded Smer, which he first labelled a party of the third way.

Between 2002-2006 Smer was the main opposition party in the Slovak parliament. In 2004, it swallowed up nearly all the leftist parties active on the Slovak political scene, including SDĽ.

In 2006, Smer won the elections with more 29 percent of the vote and entered a coalition with two small parties: Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS). This brought heavy criticism to Smer from European partners and the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Parliament suspended Smer’s membership until February 2008. Fico’s first term as a prime minister was marked by the country’s entry into the eurozone, but also by several big scandals, including the so-called bulletin-board tender and a murky emissions quota sale. Both incidents cost the country millions of euros.

In 2010 Smer received more 34 percent of the vote, but was outnumbered in parliament by a collection of right-leaning parties. Fico and his coalition were replaced by a coalition of four right-wing parties led by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová.

But it was not long before Fico returned in full force, as he helped engineer the fall of Radičová’s government leading to early election in March 2012. Smer won an outright majority of 83 seats in parliament and became the first party to rule alone, without the need for any coalition partners, since 1989.

With press reports