Essay prize gives Slovak students chance to enter politics

November 24, 2000

One of Slovakia's newer political parties has announced a scheme to bring students more actively into the country's political life.

Smer (Direction), led by populist Robert Fico, announced an essay-writing competition, where the essay must have an economic, political or legal theme. The prize is unusual - a chance to stand as a Smer candidate in the Slovak parliamentary elections in 2002.

The announcement came at a delicate moment. There is tension between the parties in Slovakia's coalition government. Earlier this month, there was a national referendum on whether the date of the elections should be brought forward. The referendum was invalid owing to insufficient turnout.

The Hungarian Coalition party, which represents Slovakia's Hungarian minority, has chosen this moment to press for the claims of that minority, which include a Hungarian university.

Hungarian education minister Zsolt Nemeth last week raised the issue of what could be a compromise - the establishment of a Hungarian faculty at the University of Nyitra in southern Slovakia.

Mr Nemeth said that the Slovak education ministry had agreed to this. However, he said, the final decision rested with the university senate.

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