Slovakia on Saturday kicks off the final two days of voting in EU-wide elections, under the shadow of last month’s shooting of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Another violent incident occurred late on Friday when a man hit Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in a Copenhagen square. 

The motive for the assault on Frederiksen was not immediately known. Police arrested the man but gave few immediate details about what happened.

The May 15 assassination attempt on Slovakia’s populist premier Fico by a 71-year-old poet rocked his nation of 5.4 million and spread shockwaves across the EU.

Hours after polls open in Slovakia, attention will shift to Italy when its own voting stations open. Far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is hoping a strong showing from her party will strengthen her hand as a key EU powerbroker.

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Most of the EU’s 27 countries – including biggest economies Germany and France, as well as Denmark – will hold their votes for the transnational European Parliament on Sunday.

Since the attack last month on Fico, his left-wing populist Smer-SD party has skyrocketed past its main liberal rival to the top of the polls ahead of the vote in Slovakia.

Hours before the country entered a pre-election media moratorium on Wednesday, a visibly thinner Fico published a video message describing his attacker as “an activist of the Slovak opposition.”

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The Hungarian PM relayed messages from Beijing and Moscow, suggesting that the EU “launch a European initiative” peace settlement in Ukraine without US participation.

“This opposition was unable to assess where its aggressive and hateful politics had led a section of society, and it was only a matter of time before a tragedy would occur,” the four-time PM said in the 14-minute video.

Smer has used the attack in its campaign events, which were run under the slogan “For Robert Fico, for Slovakia”.

The party opposes EU arms deliveries to Ukraine, calling itself a “party of peace” and railing against alleged “warmongers” in Brussels.

It remains to be seen if the groundswell of opinion after Fico’s shooting translates into higher turnout, with just 22 percent of Slovakians voting at the last EU parliament elections in 2019.

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Meloni the queenmaker?

While the dramatic backdrop to Slovakia’s vote has increased interest, the ballot in Italy starting the same day looks like it will have far more impact on determining the future course of the EU.

Polls suggest Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party looks set to claim 27 percent of the vote, equaling 22 seats, amid a broader surge of far-right groups across the EU.

That could make her a potential kingmaker -- or more appropriately, queenmaker -- as her backing could be crucial in deciding if current conservative European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen earns a second term.

In the run-up to the election, Meloni has been courted by center-right von der Leyen and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen, whose National Rally is topping the polls in France, harbors hope of linking up with Meloni after the election in a bid to coral the fractious extreme right into a new supergroup at the EU parliament.

For the time being, the Italian leader is playing her cards close to her chest.

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But she has said her goal is to send all the EU’s left-wing parties into opposition.

The outsized influence of Meloni’s party is more striking given that during the last EU polls in 2019 it won just 6.4 percent of the vote and six seats.

On the domestic stage, a commanding performance could help further tighten Meloni’s dominance over Italy’s notoriously turbulent political scene.

In the days running up to the vote, the prime minister has been omnipresent in national media, showcasing her credentials as a bulwark against illegal immigration.

Public concern over the flow of irregular migrants across the Mediterranean was one of the key issues that propelled Meloni to power in 2022.

On Wednesday, she visited Albania, where her government has struck a deal to house migrants who are rescued at sea in Italian waters.

Overall, polls ahead of the vote suggested that far-right parties could claim around a quarter of the 720 seats in the incoming EU parliament.

Exit polls in early barometer the Netherlands, which voted on the first day on Thursday, saw the party of anti-immigration firebrand Geert Wilders take second place.

But the stronger performance of Dutch pro-European parties provided some succor to centrist parties trying to hold off the far-right.

Von der Leyen’s conservative European People’s Party and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats remain on course to be the two biggest groupings in the EU parliament.

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