EP ELECTIONS: Slovak turnout in EP elections could be one of the lowest

Voter-turnout in Slovakia’s elections for the European Parliament held on June 6 was about 19 percent, based on unofficial results. On Sunday’s edition of the political talk show “O 5 Minút 12” broadcast by the public service channel Slovak Television (STV), Ivan Štefunko, an analyst with the Euractiv.sk portal, said that turnout in Slovakia was likely to be one of the lowest across the 27-nation European community.

Voter-turnout in Slovakia’s elections for the European Parliament held on June 6 was about 19 percent, based on unofficial results. On Sunday’s edition of the political talk show “O 5 Minút 12” broadcast by the public service channel Slovak Television (STV), Ivan Štefunko, an analyst with the Euractiv.sk portal, said that turnout in Slovakia was likely to be one of the lowest across the 27-nation European community.

Štefunko said this low turnout is a result of the failure of top Slovak politicians to attract the electorate through regular presentation and discussion of European views and issues. Over the past five years, he said, Slovak politicians have almost not mentioned the European Union among their issues of political discourse.

Štefunko is also of the opinion that elected officials and party representatives from Slovakia’s political establishment did little this year to encourage the electorate to participate in the 2009 EP balloting. Štefunko said this can be partially ascribed to the fact that Slovakia is still a young member of the EU.

The director of the EP Information Office in Slovakia, Robert Hajšel, attributes voters’ apathy and their limited interest in European public affairs with each country’s domestic political scene. He pointed out that most other EU member states failed to halt the shrinking interest in the EP elections this year while in Slovakia, if unofficial results are confirmed, turnout improved by about two percentage points compared with five years ago.

"Given our expectations, this outcome is better than projections," Hajšel concluded.

The arrangement of mandates in the European Parliament does not say much about the real balance of power and political influence in Slovakia, according to political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, but rather about the ability of individual parties to mobilise voters.

Mesežnikov suggested that due to the low turnout the results are not representative enough to draw conclusions about the distribution of domestic political power. However, Mesežnikov praised the Sloboda a solidarita (Freedom and Solidarity) party which this year got very close to making it to the EP. He said that could be a promising development.

Sociologist Pavel Haulík sees low interest by Slovakia’s political parties themselves as the main reason for the low voter turnout. Verbally the parties support the elections, but they did not do enough to lure voters to the polls, he said.

The election campaign was not motivating, Haulík said. He certainly does not view the weather or voters’ leisure activities as the main reason for the low turnout, as the numbers in 2004 and this year are too similar.

Haulík said that the parties even did not even bother to make an effort to find out which individuals might have a chance to perform better on their candidate lists. He added that some names on the lists were totally unknown to voters.

“If a voter sees someone he or she doesn’t know and the information only is that he is 26 years old and works as an assistant, the voter might decide not to vote at all,” Haulík concluded.

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