Monitors scrutinise Slovakia's vote

THE ELECTION held on June 12 was the seventh democratic balloting to choose members of parliament since the fall of communism in November 1989. For a second time, Slovak citizens living abroad were allowed to vote via mail, and over 6,900 of them asked to do so.

THE ELECTION held on June 12 was the seventh democratic balloting to choose members of parliament since the fall of communism in November 1989. For a second time, Slovak citizens living abroad were allowed to vote via mail, and over 6,900 of them asked to do so.

The overall cost of the election was just over €9.7 million, with €7.95 million paid directly from the state budget and the remaining €1.76 million covered by Slovakia’s Statistics Office.

There were 5,929 precinct commissions watching over the local voting process and tabulating those results, 50 regional election commissions collating information and the Central Election Commission (ÚVK), headed by Smer nominee Tatiana Janečková. Each party which fulfilled the conditions to field candidates for parliament was entitled to nominate one person as a member of the ÚVK. It is the primary body with oversight responsibility for the election process and the parties’ preceding campaigns.

The Statistics Office organised a final test of its vote-tabulating processes in Banská Bystrica on June 8, the last trial run before the actual balloting.

“The testing took place in the rooms in which the summarising bodies of the regional election commissions will be processing the results on June 12,” Eva Kelemenová, the Statistics Office spokesperson, told The Slovak Spectator. She said that all the 1,490 people and 760 computers which would be used to tabulate the votes took part in the final test. The technical parameters and the reliability of the equipment and computer programs had been checked in two tests in May.

Slovakia’s election was being monitored by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which deployed an election assessment mission to Slovakia on June 1 to observe pre-vote activities and the actual balloting process.

ODIHR was invited by the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry as all member states of OSCE have committed themselves to invite observers to their elections.

“We received this invitation from the Slovak authorities and decided to send an assessment mission,” Jens-Hagen Eschenbaecher, the ODIHR spokesperson, told The Slovak Spectator. “The decision about whether to send observers is made on the basis of a report from the needs assessment mission. In this case, the needs assessment mission undertaken at the end of April concluded that the presence of experts to look at specific aspects of the electoral process was welcomed by interlocutors and would bring added value.”

Similar missions have recently been deployed to Austria, the United Kingdom and Germany, Eschenbaecher noted, stressing that this is a routine procedure for OSCE.

The mission to Slovakia was led by Ambassador Jolanda Brunetti and consisted of 10 international election experts from nine OSCE states. The experts assessed and reported on the overall framework for the conduct of the election.

One of the most frequent past concerns in Slovak elections has been suspicions of vote-buying in Roma settlements, particularly in eastern Slovakia.

Eschenbaecher said this concern would be assessed by the ODIHR observers. Other issues in the focus of the mission were party and campaign financing, the campaign environment, the role of the media and the level of participation of national minorities in the vote. The experts met with relevant government authorities, election administrators, candidates and political parties as well as members of the judiciary, civil society and the media.

ODIHR did not carry out systematic or comprehensive observation of the actual voting or its tabulation on election day, but the experts did visit a limited number of polling stations across the country to examine election-day procedures.

“Our needs assessment mission noted that the electoral administration appears to enjoy broad confidence across the political spectrum,” Eschenbaecher told The Slovak Spectator prior to the election. “None of the interlocutors raised any concerns regarding the impartiality and professionalism of the election administration and its ability to organise the elections in an efficient manner.”

According to Eschenbaecher, Slovak authorities have considered a number of previous ODIHR recommendations when modifying the country’s election law, but a number of recommendations still remain unaddressed.

“Our mission has been getting full access to all information requested and is grateful for the assistance and support provided by the Slovak authorities,” Eschenbaecher said.

He added that a final report on the mission’s findings, including recommendations on how to address any possible weaknesses or shortcomings, will be issued about two months after the election.

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