FORMER CULTURE MINISTER DIES IN CAR CRASH

Ride from campaign turns fatal

FORMER Culture Minister František Tóth, 43, was killed in a car accident just days ahead of the general elections.
The accident occurred at a railway crossing in the western Slovak village of Šelpice, in the Trnava region. Tóth was returning from a campaign rally at around 15:00 on June 13 when, according to police, he went through a red light and was hit by a passenger train. He was killed instantly.
Tóth's former government colleagues and party peers were reportedly shocked, and expressed their condolences to Tóth's family.

photo: SITA

FORMER Culture Minister František Tóth, 43, was killed in a car accident just days ahead of the general elections.

The accident occurred at a railway crossing in the western Slovak village of Šelpice, in the Trnava region. Tóth was returning from a campaign rally at around 15:00 on June 13 when, according to police, he went through a red light and was hit by a passenger train. He was killed instantly.

Tóth's former government colleagues and party peers were reportedly shocked, and expressed their condolences to Tóth's family.

Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel, who served with Tóth in the governmental New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party before they both left it at the end of last year, said he was "deeply affected" by Tóth's death.

"They entered politics together in 2002 and together pushed through liberal goals in the areas of culture and education. Minister Chmel was hoping to meet with Tóth in the future to continue to address the issues facing the culture sector. Unfortunately, this tragic accident has put an end to those plans," Miriam Grófová from Chmel's office told The Slovak Spectator.

Tóth's death marks the conclusion of his short political career. He started as a member of ANO and served as deputy education minister. From June 2005 to April 6, 2006 he also served as culture minister, but was dismissed after a campaign spending scandal.

František Tóth died instantly after a train hit his car.
photo: SME - Pavol Funtál

Tóth later co-founded the Nádej (Hope) party, which competed in the general elections, but scored less than one percent support.

Alexandra Novotná, the leader of Nádej, told the TASR news agency that, at the time of his death, Tóth was traveling on behalf of the party, though he no longer had any political ambitions.

Tóth was number 30 on the party's candidate list, giving him no chance of being elected to parliament. Nádej did not replace Tóth with a new candidate for the elections.

"The world is unjust to some people. I think it's especially a shame that he was struck by so many personal tragedies within such a short period of time," Novotná said.

Tóth was a somewhat controversial culture minister, whose managerial approach often clashed with the more artistic sentiments of the cultural scene's prominent figures.

In April, he was dismissed for spending around Sk700,000 (Ř18,520) from the ministry's budget to send letters to 66,000 teachers. Tóth argued the letters concerned only the teachers' participation in a ministry project to provide free access to cultural establishments, but the opposition accused him of using the letter as a publicly-funded campaign tool for his Nádej party.

Regardless of the controversy, the news of his death shocked all who worked with him.

"It's sad whenever people die. It is even sadder when it's tragic and so untimely," said Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič.

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda also sent condolences to Tóth's family, saying "there are no words to soften the pain caused by this unexpected loss, but I believe time can heal the deep wound this tragic event has left in your hearts."

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