KOŠICE - Less than 22% of the voting population in the Košice region cast ballots in regional elections, the second lowest turnout among Slovakia's eight regions. Of 581,798 registered voters only 126,803 participated. Pre-vote predictions had estimated a turnout of 40%.
Zuzana Chovanová, the chairperson of the central Košice voting commission, blamed the low turnout on voter ignorance of the candidates.
"Right now only 13% of this district's voters have cast their ballots and we are expecting a low turnout, perhaps 25%," Chovanová said five hours after the polls had opened.
"There was a weak information campaign by the government, so few people know who to vote for or what the elections are about," she added.
The big winner in the Košice region was the coalition of the governmental Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the non-parliamentary Smer, which won 24 seats in the new 57-seat regional parliament.
The coalition of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) and the Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) won 14 seats. The Christian-Democrats (KDH), Democratic Party (DS) and ANO secured 10.
The remaining nine seats went to eight independents and a member of the tiny Social-Democratic Party (SDSS).
HZDS member Alojz Engliš (27,981 votes) and KDH member Rudolf Bauer (20,094) were the two top vote-collecters and will vie for the post of Košice regional chairman in a run-off election December 15.
The low turnout surprised few local residents, who said they had not voted because they knew little of the 641 candidates. Many of those who did vote said they had done so only out of a sense of civic duty.
"I always vote, I even voted during communism. But this was not prepared well, the candidates should have been publicised more. People cannot be expected to learn who all these people are and what their functions will be. I voted for who is capable - I'm old, so I can tell just by looking at them," said Vincent Lovas, 70.
"I voted because everyone should vote. But there was definitely not enough information about who these people are that we voted for," added 25-year-old Martina.
Others at the polls said Slovaks were tired of voting for candidates who made no discernible difference to easterners' everyday lives.
"We've lost our appetites for elections because there's nobody to believe in. But I voted because I believe everyone should participate," said Renáta Kundriková, 31.
Helena, 41, added: "People are tired of voting. We've had elections three years in a row, now four, and we'll have national elections again next year. So many votes, yet nothing has improved, they have yet to solve anything."
Helena said that keeping informed of the candidates had been a challenge, but not impossible. "The information was there, but only for people who really wanted it. The problem was that you had to rely on the mass media, you had to buy the papers every day and really study the candidates to find out who they were, who to vote for.
"If people were really driven to be informed, they could have been. But there was little interest and far too many candidates to choose from."
10. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri