Who Wants to Vote? The Spectacular Failure of Referenda in Slovakia

"This referendum, like several others before it, is a form of political campaign and anti-government mobilisation. But with regards to its strong signature collection effort and the level of discontent with the current government, it could be precisely this plebiscite that ends up being very successful," political scientist Juraj Marusiak of the Slovak Academy of Sciences tells BIRN.

Supporters of the latest referendum are looking to improve Slovakia's plebiscite track record of two successful votes out of nine. The odds, however, are stacked against them.

The petition commission submits sheets full of signatures seeking a referendum on a snap vote to the Presidential Palace on 3 May 2021. Photo: TASR - Pavel Neubauer Doomed to fail

When, earlier this year, amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a designated commission announced the launch of a signature-collection campaign to support a petition on a snap election, hardly anyone paid attention.

"Slovakia needs a competent and reliable government that will lead the country out of crisis. In a situation where the ruling coalition is refusing to take responsibility for its failures, early parliamentary elections are the only solution," read a statement on the commission's website.

The country has seen this before. Of the previous seven failed referenda, two - in 2000 and 2004 - aimed to prompt a snap vote. The plebiscites failed miserably. With respective turnouts of 20 per cent and 36 per cent, they fell well below the 50 per cent threshold that makes a referendum valid under Slovak law.

The single occasion when Slovaks made use of a referendum to decide upon a major societal question was the 2003 vote on the country's accession to the EU. The plebiscite's...

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