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20th Jan 2019

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Slovakia's EP election turnout set for all-time low of 13%

  • A polling station in Slovakia, with nobody around (Photo: EUobserver)

Slovakia is set to rewrite the record books of EU elections again, with unofficial turnout figures suggesting that just some 13 percent of people cared to vote.

If confirmed, this would surpass both the pessimistic pre-election estimate of 16-21 percent turnout and past results – 19.6 percent in 2009 and 16.9 percent in 2004. The latter was the lowest ever score in the union's history.

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Slovakia's EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic, campaigning for the ruling social democrats (Smer-SD), said politicians need to seriously think about how to tackle the so-called Slovak paradox. People are generally supportive of EU membership and integration, but show an unprecedented lack of interest in the EP vote.

"It is a failure across the political spectrum," Sefcovic told EUobserver, labelling the lack of interest by young voters as "particularly alarming". What is needed, he said, is communication that ordinary citizens can easily understand as well as more media coverage of EU-related themes.

Jan Oravec, heading the list of the Eurosceptic Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS), also expressed surprise over young people's lack of interest in the EU campaign. "It is their future at stake, after all."

Saturday (May 24), EP vote day, saw efforts to engage young voters through the campaign #volilisme, i.e. we have voted. It encouraged people to take a selfie photo at the polling stations and to post it together with #volilisme information on twitter and Facebook.

But Zuzana Gabrizova, journalist and EU expert, questions political parties' concern with the low turnout.

She told EUobserver that they "have adjusted to the existing reality of low interest in EU affairs, rather than actively confronting it". They have no strong incentives – in terms of gaining money or power – to engage in increasing turnout, she said.

As a result, parties focus on their core voters, while saving money as well as effort, she noted.

The existing voting system for EU elections is also seen by analysts as an additional reason contributing to the problem.

Ruling social democrats win and lose at the same time

Unofficial results also suggest that the ruling Smer-SD party won the EP vote with 24 percent support. But it has probably lost one seat, leaving it with only four MEPs in the next legislative period.

It is "rather a disappointment", said Maros Sefcovic, who received the most preferential votes, although he is hoping for another stint in the commission. He is the outgoing commissioner in charge of inter-institutional relations and administration in the EU's executive.

Seven other parties seem to have succeeded in the elections, winning either one or two seats.

The Christian democrats (KDH) appear to be second with some 13 percent of all votes, ensuring re-election of their current MEPs, Anna Zaborska and Miroslav Mikolasik. The centre-right SDKU-DS party is also set to have two MEPs.

The Ordinary People movement (OLaNO), the Eurosceptic liberals (SaS), the conservatives (NOVA), the centre-right Most-Hid, and the SMK party, representing the Hungarian minority, each look set to have one MEP.

Parties such as SaS and NOVA have "profited from the extremely low turnout", political analyst Martin Klus told the TASR news agency. "In Lithuania, the EU vote was coupled with the presidential elections. Why don't we do the same?"

EU turnout nearly unchanged from 2009

A 0.09 percent increase in the turnout compared to the last EU elections has been celebrated as 'historic', but some experts see a link to the strong anti-establishment vote in many countries.

Slovak Liberals unsure of EP group

Slovak liberals are weighing up whether to stick with the Liberal group in the European Parliament or try their luck with the anti-federalist ECR.

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