The EP's Pat Cox toasts Slovakia's first elections to the European Parliament
"I am extremely worried that the Slovak voter is weary from the different campaigns, and I am concerned about low turnout," Azelio Fulmini, head of the European Parliament Office in Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator ahead of the elections.
As many as 188 candidates put forward by 17 parties were fighting for the 14 seats Slovakia will get in the European assembly of over 700 MEPs from all 25 countries of the enlarged union. Most major Slovak parties are affiliated with one of the seven political groups established in the EP.
Slovak voters have had to go to the voting booths as many as six times since September 2002 to attend parliamentary and municipal elections, two rounds of presidential elections, and two referenda.
Preliminary opinion polls gave ground for concern. A survey by the Focus research agency, performed over the course of May, showed that just over 20 percent of voters were certain to participate, with a further 19 percent saying they would probably vote.
In the last EP elections five years ago, voter turnout was lowest in the United Kingdom, where only 24 percent of eligible voters showed up on election day.
Aware of the threat, various public institutions tried to attract voters. The government cancelled its regular meeting in the week preceding the elections to enable its members to focus on the campaign, according to its press office.
The labour unions and major church figures have also advised their followers to make use of their voting rights.
"My message to voters from Lisbon to Liverpool and Ljubljana is clear - in June you will be sending someone to the EP who can influence your everyday life," said Pat Cox, the outgoing president of the EP, in a statement stressing the need to make a wise and responsible decision.
Cox was among those who attempted to motivate Slovaks, stopping in the country during a voter-mobilisation tour of European countries.
Besides declarations calling for higher attendance, the days leading up to election Sunday were free of any spectacles, as Slovak parties led dry and topic-free campaigns focused almost exclusively on stressing the candidates' determination to fight for national interests in the EP.
That trend seems to reflect the wishes of the people. The most important virtue Slovaks want their MEPs to posses is the ability to push through Slovak interests, according to the research of the Manager and Marketing Service firm.
14. Jun 2004 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila