Cultural Revolutions

Closer Cooperation

Slovakia's presidential race was not big news in May, as the world's attention was focused on NATO's destruction of a small Slavic country to the south. The predictable first-round results pitted the controversial former leader of the fledgling democracy, Vladimir Meciar, against the ex-communist mayor of Kosice, Rudolf Schuster. Throughout his stormy career, Meciar, who played a significant role in the break-up of Czechoslovakia, has been accused of cronyism and arrogance, and in the final run-off, the well-liked Schuster walked away with 57 percent of the vote.

Some Western commentators are hailing a "new era" in Slovakian politics. Meciar's nationalism and intransigence on minority questions had kept the country somewhat isolated from the rest of Europe. Like many older Slovaks, he turned a deaf ear to Hungarians claiming special status. Down to the end of World War I, Hungary had inflicted a repressive campaign of Magyarization on the Slovaks in an attempt to deprive them of their language, culture, and nationality, and the Hungarians belated respect for ethnic diversity, while attractive to Western powers looking for an opportunity to interfere, seems just a little hypocritical.

Mayor Schuster campaigned on a platform of continued economic reform and a promise of productive cooperation (wherever possible) with the government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and support for the tough austerity...

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