Election fever in Slovakia
05 January 1999
Prior to and during the parliamentary elections in Slovakia in October, several Slovak daily newspapers reported that the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party were "buying" Roma votes. The daily Pravda reported on October 7 that Roma in the Rimavská Sobota region were allegedly being pressurised to vote HZDS by local Roma parties paid off by HZDS and with promises of emergency financial aid on an individual basis if they voted for the ruling party. In the village of Krasnohorské Podhradie, Rožňava region, the Roma were allegedly promised money to build a water supply to their settlement of 700 inhabitants if they voted HZDS. The Slovak daily SME reported that in the village of Jasov, where about 600 Roma have voting rights, Roma were rewarded with 1,000 Slovak crowns (approximately 30 USD) and apple wine if they showed, by their leftover ballot papers, that they had voted HZDS.
The newly formed coalition government of Slovakia, which defeated former Prime Minister Mečiar's HZDS in the elections, has publicly made promises to improve the situation of the Roma during its term. Reuters reported on November 3 that the Slovak government had "pledged to work with the country's Gypsy minority to improve conditions that have driven many to seek asylum abroad". The Slovak daily Národná Obroda further reported on November 11 that the Minister for Employment, Social Affairs and the Family, Peter Magvaši, had promised, during an official visit to Romani communities in Eastern Slovakia, that the new government would focus on the "Roma question".
In the December local elections, many Roma, encouraged by local NGOs, were standing for election onto the local councils. In Spišské Tomášovce, Spišská Nová Ves region, for example, where there is a 540-strong Roma community, five Roma were standing for election onto the municipal council. ČTK, the Czech news agency, reported on November 29 that the two main Romani parties, Romani Intelligentsia for Coexistence (Rómska Inteligencia za Spolunažitie — RIS) and Romani Civil Initiative (Rómska Občianska Iniciativa — ROI) had announced that they planned to co-operate during the forthcoming local elections. (ČTK, Národná Obroda, Pravda, Reuters, Romano L'il Nuevo, SME)