This Saturday, 18 September, the people of Slovakia should be taking part in a referendum. They should be, but probably won’t as the two opposition parties have called on their supporters not to take part.
The referendum covers six issues and for the outcome to have any effect, at least half of all eligible voters would have to take part in it at least. This is now very unlikely. The hottest issue concerns a reduction in MP immunity, which the government tried recently to pass by Constitutional Law in parliament. The session was eventually boycotted by the SMER-SD and SNS parties.
The referendum was initiated by the SaS party,which collected around 403,000 signatures just before the parliamentary elections. The Ministry of interior is responsible for overseeing the organization of this, the seventh referendum in Slovak history (only one of which was valid, the one on EU accession, which saw 52.15% turnout of eligible voter).
President Ivan Gasparovic set the date of the referendum for 18 September, although the petition committee and the SaS wanted it on either the same day as the parliamentary elections or on the day of municipal elections in November. This would have saved the country a lot of money and would have ensured a greater turnout.
There were initially ten questions to be included, but since getting into power, the SaS party has managed to get 4 issues included in the government manifesto.
The remaining issues are roughly as follows:
1. question on the scrapping of public TV and radio license fees
2. question on enabling MPs to be charged under the Minor Offences Act (reduced MP immunity)
3. question on reducing the number of MPs to just one hundred (from 150 at present)
4. question on putting a price cap on vehicles purchased by public officials (max. price of EUR 40,000)
5. question on allowing voting in parliamentary elections to be done electronically via the internet
6. question on cancelling the ‘right of reply’ for politicians currently afforded by the Press Act
If enough people were to vote in the referendum, the decision would then rest on what the majority of those taking part vote for. By not taking part in the referendum, this will ensure that it makes no difference how the vote goes, because of the need for a majority of the voting population to take part.