Slovakia: Candidate offering remuneration to Roma for sterilization
Vladimír Gürtler, an attorney and the leader of the regional "Seven Brave Ones" (Sedm statečných) party who is running for a seat on the Košice City Council representing the Luník IX precinct, is behind a controversial election campaign now underway there. Many Romani people live at the Luník IX housing estate in the eastern Slovakian metropolis, which is often termed a "ghetto" by the media.
One of his campaign posters features Gürtler in a white shirt and white hat and a promise that he will give Romani people plane tickets to Brussels, while on another he promises that Romani women be offered EUR 10 000 for undergoing sterilization. In his campaign video the attorney says human rights experts live off of money intended to aid Romani people and alleges that the funds are being spent in Bratislava on various projects.
Gürtler objects to being called a racist and claims to want to help the Romani residents of Luník IX. "If we don't help them, then we, the majority population of Slovakia, will have serious problems in time," he said.
Police have begun investigating the campaign. Police spokesperson Alexander Szabó has said that a detective has initiated a criminal proceedings in the case.
The question of the sterilization of Romani women is a sensitive one in Slovakia. The country has lost several cases before the European Court of Human Rights regarding illegal sterilizations of Romani women.
Experts estimate that more than 400 000 Romani people live in Slovakia, which has a total population of five million. Romani people have been negatively targeted by electoral campaigns in the past there.
In the runup to the elections to Parliament in 2012, for example, the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) played the anti-Romani card. The party did not win any seats.
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