Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

PM talks victory, Europe disappointed

The Slovak Spectator - 21 June 2004

By Beata Balogová and Lukáš Fila

SLOVAKIA earned a distressing European record, posting the lowest turnout ever for elections to the European Parliament on June 13. Only 16.96 percent of eligible Slovak citizens cast their votes.

EP representatives did not hide their disappointment at the first European election performance of the new member.

"The results of the elections in Slovakia are a great disappointment for us," EP Spokesman David Harley told the Slovak daily SME.

"...Poland and Slovakia posted an even lower turnout than the United Kingdom posted in 1999 - 24 percent, which was then the lowest in the EU of 15 states," MEP and Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament Charles Tannock told The Slovak Spectator.

However, the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), which emerged as the winner of the elections to the EP with 17.9 percent of the vote, talked about a victory. The SDKÚ overtook the opposition party Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) by five-hundredths of a percent, while the opposition party Smer came in third with 16.89 percent. The fourth-ranking Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) gained just over 16 percent.

All four parties will hold three seats in the newly-elected European assembly. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) will be the fifth Slovak party to be represented in the EP. Two of the party's nominees will be members of Slovakia's 14-member representation.

Pavol Rusko's New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) and the Slovak Communist Party failed to make it to the EP.

Political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov said that the unconvincing performance of political parties and an ineffective election campaign that failed to open up interesting topics are to blame for the low turnout.

"I think that it [the low turnout] is due to electorate burnout after a surplus of recent elections, including the EU accession referendum, the presidential race, etc - the people were fed up with voting. However, this is a dangerous scenario as it creates a vacuum in which a mobilised political [party] that bothers to turn out and vote will win next time. It also shows disinterest in the EU, which will demoralise those who fought hard to make the country a member," Tannock told The Slovak Spectator.

However, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said that his party had devoted enough energy to the campaign. According to Dzurinda, the people's love for sport [referring to hockey legend Peter Šťastný, who ran as the number one candidate of the party] and an attractive election programme secured victory for the SDKÚ.