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EURO WINDOW

EP elections ready – but for whom?

THE BALLOT boxes are ready for Europeans to elect their new representatives to the unique institution called the European Parliament (EP). Over the course of four days between June 4 and 7, more than 375 million Europeans are eligible to cast a ballot for deputies who are supposed to work in the EP on the basis of political affiliation rather than nationality. However, a week before the election it appears as if a majority of the electorate is not yet convinced that Europe really needs their vote.

THE BALLOT boxes are ready for Europeans to elect their new representatives to the unique institution called the European Parliament (EP). Over the course of four days between June 4 and 7, more than 375 million Europeans are eligible to cast a ballot for deputies who are supposed to work in the EP on the basis of political affiliation rather than nationality. However, a week before the election it appears as if a majority of the electorate is not yet convinced that Europe really needs their vote.

In Slovakia the elections will take place on June 6, following the tradition that most elections in the country are scheduled on a Saturday. Despite the ongoing get-out-the-vote campaign that will last until June 5, when a moratorium on campaigning begins, a survey conducted by the TNS polling agency on behalf of the EP in early May shows that Slovaks might once again be the EU’s least-interested voters, as only 12 percent of them said they are sure to vote, the SITA newswire reported.

Despite the low prediction for Slovakia, there is some optimism at the broader European level, as the survey points to an overall 49-percent turnout, which is up from 34 percent in a previous Eurobarometer survey conducted in January and February.

“43 percent of respondents said they were certain to vote and a further 6 percent said they were very likely to do so,” the Reuters newswire quoted the poll results. “12 percent seem certain not to vote, down from 19 percent at the start of the year.”

Ireland is seen as having the highest turnout, with 66 percent of its voters saying they would definitely vote and 64 percent of the Belgians surveyed said they would follow suit.

The threat that a poor turnout during the June 4-7 election could prompt a swing towards non-mainstream parties, such as far-right and far-left groups, has forced politicians to ramp up their campaigns in recent weeks with widespread rallies as well as television, radio and newspaper advertisements, Reuters wrote.

According to political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov from the Institute for Public Affairs in Bratislava such a low expected turnout makes it hard to predict the distribution of votes among the candidates. However, parties with firm voter bases can profit from the low turnout, which puts the smaller parties in Slovakia in quite a favourable position, Mesežnikov said.

The low turnout numbers do not send a very good signal from Slovakia to the EU, according to Mesežnikov.

“Despite their trust in the EU, Slovaks don’t see taking part in the EP elections as necessary,” he told The Slovak Spectator.

Just as before any other election, the Statistics Office (ŠÚ) has been organising three tests of the statistical processing of the voting before the actual EP elections. So far, the ŠÚ has already passed two tests in which the hardware, software and transfer of results from the regional offices to the centre were evaluated, the press officer of the ŠÚ, Eva Kelemenová, told The Slovak Spectator.

The third, general test, which simulates the real processing of election results, will be held on June 2 in the cities where the regional election committees are located.

“The staff will get assignments and they will simulate the processing the way it will later be carried out after the actual voting,” Kelemenová said, adding that 1,150 people will be involved in the process, using 500 computers.

Slovakia has its own software for processing the EP election results which was developed before the EP elections in 2004. Voting results are independently processed in each EU member state.
Election results can only be published after the election sites are closed in all the EU countries, after 22:00 on Sunday, June 7.

“I absolutely rule out that the election results could be leaked before that deadline,” Kelemenová said.

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