Thursday, May 06, 2010

Slovak Far-Right Target Roma In Campaign Posters

Down at the polls, go to a push-button scapegoat target to boost the numbers.  That's what Slovakia's far-right Slovak National Party has done.  Down in the polls, the SNS has churned out stacks of posters showing a dark-skinned man and a golden necklace, accompanied by the slogan, "Do not feed those who do not want to work."  The poster has sparked outrage in Slovakia, not least among the Gypsies, or Roma, themselves, who are at the bottom-rung in Europe's socio-economic feeder system. 

SNS leader Jan Slota's campaign was "disgusting", Frantisek Tanko of the Union of Slovak Roma told reporters. "We hear nothing from Mr Slota but 'Roma are dirty and steal'."

Slovak media firm euroAWK, a unit of Germany's media group AWK, whose ad space was used for the campaign, squirmed to disassociate itself with the posters. 

The company said it would cover up all 29 of the controversial posters in the region of the capital Bratislava. Other firms, however, continued to place the posters in other regions.

The SNS said the billboard referred to all Slovaks exploiting the welfare system.

In a clumsy bit of table-turning, the party's Vice-Chairwoman Anna Belousovava said: "Those who scream the man on the billboard is Roma, or a Gypsy, are racists. How did you come to the conclusion he's a Gypsy?"

Up to 10 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million people are Roma. Most live on the margins of society in squalid settlements that wouldn't look out of place in sub-Sahara Africa

These communities on the outskirts of white towns usually lack basic services like sewage and electricity. 

Unemployment among the Roma in Slovakia runs as high as 90 percent. 

The SNS is no on-the-fringes party in Slovakia, no sirree.  The Party is a coalition partner of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his "Smer" or "Direction" Party.

Fico's 2006 decision to join forces with the SNS came at a price.  Smer was booted out by their comrades of the European democratic socialist parties.  That was the first time any Socialist-associated party had been blacklisted by the group.

The SNS party leader is one, Jan Slota, a thuggish type who would love to kick all the Hungarians across the Danube River back to their original home.

Here he is after tipping back one too many cognacs.

In March, the euro zone member was taken to task by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for eroding the treatment of Roma.

Last month, SMER proposed that boarding schools were the only way to break a cycle of exclusion in which most Roma grow up without any hope of joining mainstream society.

Al-Jazeera called it either Europe's most ambitious or controversial decision to deal with the Roma problem. 

That will be a decision most Slovaks would probably agree with, if not publicly. 

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