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Brezno voters picked pig killings over polls

BREZNO - Regional elections for residents of this town in the Banská Bystrica Higher Territorial Unit (VÚC), which is made up of largely rural areas, were simply an inconvenience, locals said.
This time of year is traditionally reserved for killing pigs. The day-long ceremony, involving shooting hogs and turning the meat into bacon, sausages, and smoked ham, keeps Brezno residents busy until late evening.
The competing draw of pig slaughtering, combined with less tangible factors such as a poor information campaign before the elections, contributed to the overall low voter turnout in the Banská Bystrica region: 24.17% of eligible voters, slightly below the national average of 26%.

BREZNO - Regional elections for residents of this town in the Banská Bystrica Higher Territorial Unit (VÚC), which is made up of largely rural areas, were simply an inconvenience, locals said.

This time of year is traditionally reserved for killing pigs. The day-long ceremony, involving shooting hogs and turning the meat into bacon, sausages, and smoked ham, keeps Brezno residents busy until late evening.

The competing draw of pig slaughtering, combined with less tangible factors such as a poor information campaign before the elections, contributed to the overall low voter turnout in the Banská Bystrica region: 24.17% of eligible voters, slightly below the national average of 26%.

"I couldn't go because I had more important things to do. We were killing a pig," said retired Mária Štulajterová from Čierny Balog village near Brezno. "I didn't even know who was running. I never saw any posters in the village, so if I had gone I guess I would have had to just circle my favorite numbers."

In Brezno, election commissions members spent their time on December 1 "reading magazines, books, exchanging recipes," said one commission member in Brezno's deserted electoral room number 13.

"About 15 to 20 people an hour have been coming in to vote," said Juraj Mydliar, head of the Brezno 13 voting commission. "It's mainly middle aged people and the older generation, very few young people. Only 10 first-time voters so far out of the 235 we have registered attended the elections. No Roma came to vote at all," Mydliar added shortly before the polls closed.

Later that night in local bars, the most frequent responses The Slovak Spectator received from young people about the elections were "I'm not interested in politics", "I have no idea who's running for the posts", and "I can't imagine how these people will help."

Although Brezno's unemployment is an alarming 17.7%, residents were generally sceptical of how the newly elected 49 members of the regional parliament could change the situation.

"I feel like I'm just helping a few people get a nice warm place in the regional parliament," said a 58-year-old retired teacher from Brezno who refused to give his name.

Local electricians, mayors, teachers and engineers were among those competing for the five member of regional parliament (MRP) posts for the Brezno constituency, one of 13 in the Banská Bystrica VÚC.

Brezno inhabitants chose three MRPs nominated by a coalition between the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the non-parliamentary Smer party, one governmental Democratic Left (SDĽ) party candidate and one right-wing coalition MRP nominated by the non parliamentary New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), and the parliamentary Democratic Party (DS), Christian Democrats (KDH) and Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ).

The overall results for the Banská Bystrica region, which stretches from under the Low Tatras mountains down to the southern border of central Slovakia's flatlands, meant a victory for the HZDS - Smer coalition, which took 22 out of the total 49 MRP seats.

The ethnically-based Hungarian Coalition (SMK) ranked second with 15 MRPs, followed by seven right-wing deputies, four SDĽ representatives and one independent candidate.

The race for the chair of the Banská Bystrica VÚC is to be decided in two weeks. HZDS - Smer nominee Milan Marčok, 62, a university professor from Zvolen who scored 36,033 votes, will compete with the current deputy mayor of Zvolen, Jozef Mikuš, nominated by ANO-DS-KDH-SDKÚ with 28,393 votes.

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