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Assault on Danish prime minister is the latest in a recent spate of attacks on European politicians

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Slovakia’s prime minister was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt last month and still faces a long recovery. The Danish prime minister was assaulted by a man Friday evening in downtown Copenhagen. German politicians have faced a wave of physical and verbal attacks for months.

Political violence appears to be rising across the Europe, where societies are deeply polarized in the face of widespread migration from the Middle East and Africa and are badly shaken by the war in Ukraine, the largest conflict on the continent since World War II.

The recent violence has come in the runup to elections taking place this weekend to the European Parliament, the legislative branch of the 27-member bloc.

In general, EU elections do not arouse the same kinds of passions as elections in the individual nations, and to what extent the violence is driven by the campaign climate is not clear. But the backdrop of migration pressure has awakened strong feelings, and is expected to lead to a political shift to the right in the EU legislature.

The most serious attack so far has been that against Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who struggled for his life after multiple shots were fired on him on May 15 as he greeted supporters.

Fico, who took office last fall after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform, suggested in a prerecorded video this week that he was targeted because of his views that differ sharply from the European mainstream.

Now some critics worry that Fico, who already faced accusations of eroding democratic norms before the attack, is trying to use the assassination attempt to mobilize support for his populist left-wing Smer party.

The attack on Fico followed a wave of violence elsewhere, most recently on Friday evening on the streets of Copenhagen, when a 39-year-old man assaulted Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Frederiksen, the leader of the Danish Social Democrats, was rushed to a hospital for a check-up, and though unharmed, she was “shaken by the incident,” according to her office. She canceled campaign events on Saturday, the eve of voting in her country.

Details of the incident remain unclear but local media reported that the man seems to have forcefully walked toward Frederiksen and pushed her hard.

To some, the assaults on elected leaders add to the growing sense of democracy itself being under attack.

“An attack on a democratically elected leader is also an attack on our democracy,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Saturday.

In France, the lead Socialist candidate in the EU elections, Raphael Glucksmann, was pelted with eggs and paint-filled projectiles at a May Day event last month and was exfiltrated by security agents, followed by angry demonstrators.

Extreme-right figure Eric Zemmour hit a woman who threw an egg at him while campaigning in Corsica in early May.

In Germany both government and opposition parties say their members and supporters have faced a wave of physical and verbal attacks in recent months.

Last month, Berlin’s deputy mayor was attacked at an event in a local library by a man who approached her from behind and hit her with what police described as a bag containing a hard device.

Before that, a candidate from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party was beaten up in Dresden while campaigning for the European election and had to undergo surgery. This week, a far-right candidate campaigning for local elections being held the same day was stabbed and hurt in Mannheim.

“We have seen in recent weeks that readiness to use violence to pursue political aims or to muzzle people has increased,” Lars Klingbeil, one of the co-leaders of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party, told parliament on Thursday. “Representatives of all political parties have been physically assaulted in recent weeks … Violence must have no place in our society. There is no ‘yes, but,’ there is no playing it down.”

In the UK, which holds its own national election on July 4, pro-Brexit, anti-immigration campaigner Nigel Farage was pelted with a milkshake this week after he stepped back into frontline British politics, announcing he will take the helm of the right-wing party Reform U.K. and run for Parliament.

A 25-year-old woman was charged with assault.

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Geir Moulson in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Angela Charlton in Paris and Brian Melley in London contributed.

By VANESSA GERA
Associated Press

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