THE PRE-ELECTION period is not filled only with the campaigns of political parties trying to persuade people to vote for them. In the background there is also the work of the election committees that supervise the whole election process, from registering parties to counting votes.
Slovakia uses a system of proportional representation in its elections. But while MPs are elected from what is effectively a single, nationwide electoral district, administratively Slovakia is divided into election districts and local divisions. While small villages might form only one local division, bigger towns can have several divisions depending on their size. The division in which votes are cast depends on the specific street in which each voter lives.
Each local division has an independent election committee which administers the electoral process and oversees the casting of votes. After polling stations close the committees are responsible for counting the votes, preparing a memorandum on the results and transporting the memorandum to the district election committee, according to Slovakia’s Election Act.
The district election committee is responsible for the organisation and technical preparation of the elections. On the day of the election it oversees the work of the local division committees and the counting of votes. It also prepares a memorandum and sends it to the Central Election Committee.
This year there will be 5,956 local division election committees and 50 district election committees, each of them comprising five to nine members nominated by political parties, political movements or coalitions of parties.
The number of deputies each party wins in the 150-member parliament depends on the percentage of votes it receives in the elections. A party must attract a minimum of 5 percent in the national vote to qualify for seats in parliament. Each eligible citizen has one party vote, but can circle up to four candidates from that party to indicate their preference. Specific MPs are then chosen depending on their place on the party’s original slate, adjusted to take account of preference votes. In the 2010 elections preference votes catapulted Igor Matovič and his three colleagues from the Ordinary People faction, as well as four members of the Civic Conservative Party (OKS) into parliament despite them occupying the bottom spots on the party lists of Freedom and Solidarity and Most-Híd respectively.
This year, voters will choose between more than 2,900 candidates, said Lívia Škultétyová, the main secretary of the Central Election Committee, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
The bill for the elections
The government has allocated €10.147 million for the organisation of the elections: €8.6 million for the Interior Ministry and €1.5 million to the Statistics Office. The sum includes expenses for printing and distribution of ballot papers and election materials, for provision of polling station equipment, for operation of communications equipment, as well as to cover maintenance of public order on election day, protection for transport of the results and payments to members of all the election committees, Jozef Šimko from the Interior Ministry told TASR.
Škultétyová added that some of the money has already been spent on printing more than 119 million ballots and 4.6 million 16-page lists of candidates, and the purchase of 4.7 million envelopes, plus ballot boxes.
“We also provided financial help to the Slovak Library for the Blind in Levoča, which prepares lists of candidates in Braille and also voice recordings,” she said, as quoted by TASR.
The election expenses have been significantly affected by the high number of political parties that have registered for the March election. This has meant that some municipalities have not received enough money to pay for their preparations, the Sme daily reported.
The election law states that each municipality has to receive reserve funds from the Interior Ministry.
“The reserves received by the majority of towns and villages are not enough to cover the expenses connected with the elections,” said Milan Muška, the deputy chair of the Association of Towns and Villages of Slovakia (ZMOS), as quoted by the Sme daily.
“It is surprising that they reduced the amount planned for us by €15,000,” the spokesperson for the local authority in Bratislava’s Petržalka district, Mária Grebeňová Lacová, told Sme, adding that the lack of money can complicate life for the municipality.
Members of ZMOS even met Prime Minister Iveta Radičová to raise the issue at the end of February, the TASR newswire reported.
“I assume that she [Radičová] will do everything for the peaceful running of the elections, to eliminate the negative phenomena which might be the result of the fact that someone is not paid for serving as a member of the local election committee,” said ZMOS chair Jozef Dvonč, as quoted by TASR, after meeting Radičová.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said that it is aware of the problem and is already seeking solutions. Spokesperson Ľubomíra Miklovičová explained that one of the reasons for the lack of money was that the parties had nominated a record number of members, Sme reported.
Since each member of the committee should receive a payment of €37.21, the expenses of the ministry have increased by €1.3 million, Miklovičová said. As well as individual payments, each local division receives €695 to cover expenses, including refreshments.