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ONE politician who doesn't seem afraid of undue popularity is Robert Fico, leader of opposition party Smer.

His recent call for the government to allow policemen to be freer with their firearms on the grounds that criminals would be better dealt with outside the jails than inside, seems certain to garner him even more public support. He may not need it, since Smer is already ahead in opinion polls.

Whatever the rights and wrongs might be of shooting offenders on sight, Prime Minister Dzurinda might like to bear in mind that Fico is a strong opponent of the US attack on Iraq. This shows he doesn't always shoot from the hip, and that might also help explain his party's standing in the polls.

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