News Briefs

Velvet Revolution rally draws few supporters
Fico offers crack at parliamentary seats in essay contest
Martinková case proceedings await psychiatric report
Ministers win TV popularity contest with some help

Velvet Revolution rally draws few supporters

Just 300 citizens gathered on Bratislava's SNP námestie to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia) on November 17. The MC of the rally, Slovak actor Stano Dančiak, noted that, unlike in the Czech Republic, November 17 is not a national holiday in Slovakia, although he said he believed it someday would become one.
Also on November 17, the non-parliamentary Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) released a statement saying that the day should not be remembered as the "Day of the Fight Against Totalitarian Regimes," but instead should be remembered as the day when the door was opened to "vulgar capitalism and venereal diseases".
The KSS warned that the West was causing material and moral damage in Slovak society. Capitalism, the statement read, had resulted in an increase in suicidal tendencies, venereal diseases, and alcoholism.

Fico offers crack at parliamentary seats in essay contest

Róbert Fico, the head of the largest non-parliamentary party Smer, has launched a writing contest for original essays on politics, law and economics. Winners will be awarded cash prizes ranging between 5,000 Slovak crowns ($100) and 70,000 crowns, as well as candidacies for Smer parliamentary seats before the 2002 elections.
Fico said that the contest was aimed at stemming the tide of Slovak students leaving the country to study abroad. Smer general manager Monika Beňová said that the parliamentary seats up for grabs were not the main point of the contest.

Martinková case proceedings await psychiatric report

Blažena Martinková, the wife of Slovak privatiser Karol Martinka and a former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, remained hospitalised at Baumgartner Hoehe Psychiatric Clinic in Vienna awaiting a medical report to determine whether she is fit to stand trial for the attempted murder of her son.
Martinková repeatedly stabbed her son last month in the family's house in Vienna, where they have been living for over a year despite Slovak police attempts to extradict Martinka for his alleged mismanagement and fraud at the Piešťany spas in western Slovakia. After stabbing her son, she then stabbed herself in the chest and jumped out of a second-storey window.
Vienna regional court judge Fridrich Forsthuber said the report would take several weeks to compile, after which it would be assessed by a psychiatric legal expert. If declared unfit to manage her own affairs, Martinková will not be charged with attempted murder. If charged and convicted, she could face a jail sentence in Austria of 10 years to life.

Ministers win TV popularity contest with some help

Culture Minister Milan Kňažko and Economy Minister Ľubomír Harach have in the past both won the Golden Sieve trophy on the TV Markíza talk show SITO, during which viewers call in support of debating politicians. The award is given to the politician who receives the most calls.
But a TV Markíza report on November 19 alleged that both ministers received substantial votes from their respective ministries: in April, Harach received 1,829 calls from the Economy Ministry in his support, while Kňažko's ministry called in 613 times during his June appearance on SITO and 662 times during his recent November 13 appearance. On all three occasions, the ministers won the Golden Sieve trophy.
Both Kňažko and Harach denied any knowledge of the phone calls, saying that they doubted ministry employees would stay in the office till the show's 21:00 air-time to call in their support. "There is no such practice at the ministry," Harach said. "But I will have the report checked."

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR

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