EP elections: of interest to 13% of Slovakia

Posted on 29. May 2014

by Zuzana Novakova

Zuzana Novakova NEWAnd we are at the end of the tail again. Low participation is what people will remember about these elections. Slovakia has beaten its own record of abstention rate, with 87% of those eligible simply not using their right to cast a vote.

This does not come as a big surprise, given the extremely low participation of Slovaks in previous EP elections. The context of entering the Union in 2004 and the Eurozone in 2009 did not mobilize even a fifth of the population.

The public discourse now is one of seeking whom to blame. And of questioning legitimacy and representativeness of an institution which evokes such indifference. In other countries the analysts ask where the election fatigue was at its worst. In Slovakia we have that clear – the fatigue has been alarming across all the country. Even the regions with the highest participation rate still had over 82% abstention.

Some blame the media for not reporting on the campaign and the relevant issues, but one needs to bear in mind that there was not much campaign per se to report on. In a democratic competition it should be the task for the competing candidates to point out the core relevant issues, especially those that could have made a difference in these elections. It was the candidates, not the media, who did not do their homework in this respect.

A lot of young people did not have the chance to vote because Slovakia does not enable voting from abroad for EP elections. The most mobile citizens are disproportionately affected by this restriction: those studying or working abroad seem not to have the right to choose their representatives from their country of their citizenship. Unless they are rich enough to fly home to cast their vote.

The votes of the youth were fragmented. The governing social-democratic party SMER-SD, which had an active outreach to the youth, clearly won the election but gained less seats in the European Parliament than in the past because young people also voted for candidates who were critical of the mainstream parties and the “fresh faces” on the scene. However, these elections were not about the future of Europe at all, there was a lack of any narrative. Indeed, there was a complete absence of any issue-based campaign.

This article is a part of a series of reflections by young Europeans, prepared in cooperation between FutureLab and Süddeutsche Zeitung Online. To read the original click here.