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Referendum in Slovakia victim of turnout quorum

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Referendum in Slovakia victim of turnout quorum


On Saturday, 7 February 2015, Slovakia held a referendum on the constitutional definition of the family and whether to only call the bond between women and men “marriage”. To be valid, 50 per cent (+1) of Slovakia’s eligible citizens had to participate in the referendum. Yet only 21.41 per cent of eligible voters (= 944,674 citizens) went to the polling stations. Therefore, the referendum is invalid.

The referendum followed the citizens’ initiative by the Alliance for Family (AZR) that had collected more than 400,000 signatures to trigger the referendum. 350,000 signatures were legally required. The popular vote last Saturday was the eighth referendum in Slovakia’s history as an independent Republic. Since 1993, only one referendum surpassed the turnout threshold of 50 per cent (+1), i.e. the vote on whether to join the European Union. However, this referendum was not citizen-initiated but stipulated by Slovakia’s Constitution.

In particular, citizens were asked these three questions last Saturday:

- Do you agree that only a bond between one man and one woman can be called marriage?
- Do you agree that same-sex couples or groups should not be allowed to adopt and raise children?
- Do you agree that schools cannot require children to participate in education pertaining to sexual behaviour or euthanasia if their parents or the children alone don’t agree?
(- There had been a fourth question, yet removed by Slovakia's Constitutional Court as incompatible with Sloviakia's Constitution: Do you agree that no other cohabitation besides marriage should be granted special protection, rights and duties, that are by the legal norms by 1st March 2014 granted only to marriage and spouses (particularly recogniton, registration or evidence as life association before public authority, opportunity to adopt children by the other spouse of the parent)?).

The biggest support went to the first question. 94.50 per cent voted “Yes”, while 4.13 percent opposed it. 92.43 per cent of voters approved the second question (while 5.54 percent answered “No”), while 90.32 per cent of voters supported the third question (opposed by 7.34 per cent).

Criticism by Democracy International

Democracy International criticises the high turnout threshold as undemocratic and violating the principle of equality of votes.

“The turnout quorum has provided always and everywhere better chances of winning by simply not showing up at the ballot box. This is definitely a breach of the principle of equal suffrage”, comments Daniela Bozhinova, board member of Democracy International.

Also, a referendum on one-single issue should not be mistaken with general elections and therefore does not justify that half of the electorate is required to participate.

Moreover, the turnout of many general elections is below the 50 per cent threshold. One figure: 13,05 per cent of Slovakia's eligible citizens participated in the European elections of 2014.

Further Information:

The Direct Democracy Navigator on Slovakia's direct democracy legislation

Text by Cora Pfafferott



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