GALANTA - DESPITE the governmental Hungarian Coalition Party's (SMK) claims to have opened up to more than an ethnic Hungarian electorate, it is still difficult for ethnic Slovak voters to find a path to the SMK. Literally.
In the central Slovak town of Galanta, where the SMK was supposed to hold an election rally on September 7, the small square in front of the local cultural centre was empty half an hour before start time.
Light standards in the town did bear SMK invitations to join the rally, but were exclusively in Hungarian.
The rally, as local inhabitants pointed out, was held in a local amphitheatre. The party asked its sympathisers to pay a symbolic Sk11 ($0.25) entrance fee, to remind them of the identification number the party has been assigned for the September 20-21 elections. Hand-outs were ready at the gates to answer any grumbling about the charge, while loads of alcoholic and soft refreshments were offered further inside.
SMK election candidates were on hand to talk with people before the programme started. Much of the audience spoke a cosmopolitan mix of Slovak and Hungarian amongst themselves, with only one young man holding a Greater Hungary flag to disturb the image of domestic ethnic tranquility.
A Hungarian folk ensemble got the rally cooking, followed by several Hungarian pop-tunes sung by four different singers. Finally, Deputy PM Pál Csáky, the SMK's number two election candidate, stood up to deliver his speech.
He, too, spoke only in Hungarian, although judging from the spontaneous laughs and clapping of listeners, there was some humour in what he said.
The Slovak Spectator asked Csáky if the SMK shouldn't be working harder to shed its ethnic-exclusive image, especially after four years of credited work in the national government.
"Ninety per cent of our campaign is in Hungarian, the rest is in Slovak. It's a new phenomenon [that we use Slovak at rallies], and for us also a challenge. We'll see how it goes," said Csáky after the rally.
"Look, we're realists. We see that a lot of Slovak intellectuals declare support for what we do. For us this is an honour, because they are the best part of the nation.
"But we also see that when it comes to voting, they will probably choose other parties. Our stable voters are among the Hungarians."
"I can't say much about their political programme, because not much was said, and I didn't understand the things that were," said student Juraj Benetin, 22.
"I just wanted to see [the band] Ghymes."