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PARTICIPATION VACUUM SPARKS WORRIES ABOUT SLOVAKIA'S POLITICAL BALANCE

PM talks victory, Europe disappointed

SLOVAKIA earned a distressing European record, posting the lowest turnout ever for elections to the European Parliament on June 13. Only 16.96 percent of eligible Slovak citizens cast their votes.
EP representatives did not hide their disappointment at the first European election performance of the new member.

SLOVAKIA earned a distressing European record, posting the lowest turnout ever for elections to the European Parliament on June 13. Only 16.96 percent of eligible Slovak citizens cast their votes.

EP representatives did not hide their disappointment at the first European election performance of the new member.

"The results of the elections in Slovakia are a great disappointment for us," EP Spokesman David Harley told the Slovak daily SME.

"...Poland and Slovakia posted an even lower turnout than the United Kingdom posted in 1999 - 24 percent, which was then the lowest in the EU of 15 states," MEP and Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament Charles Tannock told The Slovak Spectator.

However, the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), which emerged as the winner of the elections to the EP with 17.9 percent of the vote, talked about a victory. The SDKÚ overtook the opposition party Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) by five-hundredths of a percent, while the opposition party Smer came in third with 16.89 percent. The fourth-ranking Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) gained just over 16 percent.

All four parties will hold three seats in the newly-elected European assembly. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) will be the fifth Slovak party to be represented in the EP. Two of the party's nominees will be members of Slovakia's 14-member representation.

Pavol Rusko's New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) and the Slovak Communist Party failed to make it to the EP.

Political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov said that the unconvincing performance of political parties and an ineffective election campaign that failed to open up interesting topics are to blame for the low turnout.

"I think that it [the low turnout] is due to electorate burnout after a surplus of recent elections, including the EU accession referendum, the presidential race, etc - the people were fed up with voting. However, this is a dangerous scenario as it creates a vacuum in which a mobilised political [party] that bothers to turn out and vote will win next time. It also shows disinterest in the EU, which will demoralise those who fought hard to make the country a member," Tannock told The Slovak Spectator.

However, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said that his party had devoted enough energy to the campaign.

According to Dzurinda, the people's love for sport [referring to hockey legend Peter Šťastný, who ran as the number one candidate of the party] and an attractive election programme secured victory for the SDKÚ.

The following candidates made it to the European Parliament:


SDKÚ:
Peter Šťastný: former hockey player and manager. In 1980 he emigrated to Canada. He moves between the US and Slovakia.
Milan Gala: A parliamentary deputy who once served on the EU integration committee.
Zita Pleštinská: Mayor of the village of Chmelnica.


HZDS:
Sergej Kozlík: Ex-minister of finance and onetime deputy prime minister in the cabinet of Vladimír Mečiar. He served as an observer to the EP.
Peter Baco: Ex-minister of agriculture in the Mečiar cabinet. Before the parliamentary elections in 2002, he was the head of the HZDS election campaign.
Irena Belohorská: Parliamentary deputy, ex-minister of healthcare. She served in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for eight years.


SMER:
Monika Beňová: Before entering parliament she was a businesswoman. She served as the head of the EU integration committee.
Miloš Koterec: Former diplomat serving as the charge d'affaires of the mission to NATO. He is not a member of any political party.
Vladimír Maňka: The mayor of the town of Zvolen. He is a member of the non-parliamentary Democratic Left Party.


KDH:
Anna Záborská: A parliamentary deputy since 1998 and the chairwoman of the healthcare committee.
Miroslav Mikolášik: Slovakia's former ambassador to Canada.
Ján Hudacký: A business manager.


SMK:
Edit Bauer: A former state secretary of the Labour Ministry. She is currently a member of parliamentary environmental committee.
Árpád Duka-Zólyomi: A parliamentary deputy since 1992. She served on the foreign affairs and EU integration committees.

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