It is supported largely by younger and first-time voters, and has consistently run second to Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS, although recent polls indicate it may even have overtaken its opposition rival. Smer is expected to play a major role in the next government, and Fico has already laid down five conditions for a future cabinet if he became prime minister.
Smer's 2002 election programme includes:
* passing a law requiring people to prove the origin of their assets if asked to do so by the Attorney General
* reducing unemployment and public spending
* eliminating regional state offices and some district state offices
* completing freeway construction by 2014 (353 km of road)
* reducing the size of the cabinet and the number of ministries
* reducing the age floor for criminal responsibility to 14 years
* reducing abuse of unemployment benefits
Robert Fico, who will turn 38 this month, was born on September 15, 1964 in west Slovakia's Topoľčany. In 1986 he graduated at the Law Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava. Between 1987 and 1994 he worked at the Justice Ministry Law Institute, between 1991 and 1994 serving as its deputy director.
In 1992 he became a parliamentary deputy for the SDĽ. In 1998 he was elected SDĽ deputy chairman, but left the party in 1999 first to work as an independent MP and later to found Smer.
Fico represented Slovakia as an attorney at the European Commission for Human Rights and the European Court for Human Rights between 1994 and 1998, and was a member of the permanent delegation of the Slovak Parliament at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Robert Fico is married and has one child.
Prepared by Tom Nicholson from press reports and own research.
9. Sep 2002 at 0:00