CITIZENS of nearly all of the country’s 2,926 municipalities are voting a new mayor in municipal elections on November 15, with some foreigners eligible to vote. Just days before the elections, NGOs provided data to help citizens decide and President Andrej Kiska called on voters to turn out.
“Some of you think about whether you will participate or whether you will find candidates whom you want to support,” Kiska said in his statement on November 12. “I will vote because I cannot imagine that I would ignore elections which results affect my ordinary life.”
As many as 14 municipalities will not have a complete municipal parliament as candidates are lacking, five municipalities have no mayoral candidates and three municipalities will not have any parliamentary candidates. In cases where a municipality fails to choose a mayor, a new election will be announced in two weeks after election results are officially published, according to the SITA newswire.
The Statistics Office (ŠÚ) plans to reveal official final results on Sunday, November 16.
“Each election is specific in its own way and municipal elections are among the most difficult ones in terms of processing [votes],” Ľudmila Benkovičová, head of the Statistics Office, said, as quoted by SITA.
The official election campaign was launched on October 29 and lasted two weeks. It ended 48 hours before polling stations open. Since November 8 publication of opinion polls results has been prohibited and will only restart after polls close on November 15 at 20:00.
Need to know
There are around 4.4 million eligible voters in these elections and 28,200 of them can vote for the first time in their life. State citizenship is not a requirement: all permanent residents older than 18, including foreigners, have the right to vote in municipal elections. There are around 61,500 foreigners in Slovakia, according to the Interior Ministry. People are allowed to vote only in the place of their local residence and there is no possibility to obtain a voting card and thus vote elsewhere, according to the TASR newswire.
Only one candidate for the post of mayor can be selected. When voting for members of their municipal council, voters should be aware of the number of council seats which is stated at the top of the ballot. That number determines the maximum number of candidates that can be voted for. Voters select their choices by circling names on the ballot, according to the Interior Ministry’s web page.
Those who want to receive additional information about upcoming elections can approach a hotline run by the Interior Ministry from November 10-15.
“Information is meant for voters only and will not provide information to legal persons, media, political parties and municipalities,” Eva Chmelová of the Interior Ministry said, as quoted by TASR.
Those who have health problems can ask for a portable ballot box during the day of elections and two members of the local election commission will bring it to their residence, according to TASR.
Association of Towns and Villages of Slovakia (ZMOS) points out that municipalities have currently around 4,000 various powers and results will affect life in every village, town or city. Municipalities decide over the use of local taxes and maintain local roads, kindergartens, elementary art schools, street lights, cleanliness, public green spaces, supplies of drinking water and waste management. Municipalities also run school canteens, leisure centres, social care services and culture institutions.
“We can see the results of our decision in municipal elections every day when we leave home in the morning,” reads Kiska’s statement.
Since the first municipal election after the fall of the communist regime in the 1990 elections, attendance has mostly decreased. In 1990 it was 63.75 percent of eligible voters; in 2002 it was 49.51 percent; four years later it reached just 47.65 percent and in 2010 it increased to 49.69 percent of voters, according to SITA.
NGOs conducting surveys
To improve the pre-election discussion, some NGOs started several initiatives related to transparency and municipalities’ management. On November 12, the Slovak Governance Institute reported that 32 of 66 candidates in regional cities have agreed to follow the nine commitments of “Right Candidates” project including improved transparency, clearer rules for distributing flats and appointing to local positions as well as the de-politicisation of regional newspapers.
“We want voters to have a chance to see [which candidates] stick to their promises and are not afraid to sign under particular measures which they will fulfil in case they are elected,” Ctibor Košťál, Right Candidates project manager, said.
On the same day Fair-play Alliance published the result of its call on mayors to provide information about their property, interests and incomes. Just five candidates accepted the call.
“It’s stunning that candidates aren’t willing to show their cards at a time when they are asking for the trust of voters,” head of Fair-play Alliance Zuzana Wienk told the press. “Perhaps voters don’t see the importance [in possibility] to check whether their mayor makes profit at their expense.”
Back in October, the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms (INEKO) published its survey on the indebtedness of municipalities, saying that the average per capita indebtedness of the 50 biggest cities reached 28.2 percent of the average resident’s income. The report uses data about all 2,930 Slovak municipalities gathered by the Finance Ministry from 2010 to 2013, according to INEKO. However this is better than it used to be.
“I evaluate the management of towns positively since the vast majority of them were able to improve their management,” INEKO analyst Matej Tunega told The Slovak Spectator in early October.
When it comes to transparency, the biggest towns and cities averaged scores of just 47 points out of 100 in the Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) study published in early October. The most transparent town in 2014 is Martin (72 points), Prievidza (71 points) ended second and Rožňava (70 points) was in third. The town of Sabinov was last with just 23 points. The data about Slovakia’s 100 most populous municipalities were gathered between July and September 2014 and reflect answers to 102 questions on 11 topics, according to the TIS webpage.
“Many towns’ representatives probably don’t have the ambition to open up decision making processes to their citizens and make access to information easier for them,” Martin Kollárik of TIS told The Slovak Spectator. “We do this rating exactly to point out this situation and motivate towns to improve themselves.”