Monday, May 19, 2003

Slovakia votes "yes" on the EU question.

Strange things have happened out in Slovakia over the years. As late as the mid-1990s, the country was a political backwater led by nationalist strongman Vladimir Meciar. The recent EU vote saw 92% of voters effectively take an anti-nationalist line. Even Meciar now supports EU accession. It almost makes you wonder why they wanted to leave Czechoslovakia to begin with. (The answer, of course, is that they didn't; the Velvet Divorce was an contrivance of Meciar and Vaclav Klaus, unsupported by majorities of both populations.)

But the important graphs are buried:

No one doubted that the overwhelming majority of Slovaks would support EU entry but the success of the referendum was uncertain as the participation of an absolute majority of eligible voters was needed for it to be valid.

The limit was narrowly crossed, although the pre-referendum polls predicted the participation of about 60 or 70 percent of voters.
The lower-than-expected turnout does not bode well for the Czech vote. As I understand it, a 50% minimum turn-out is not necessary here. But although a clear majority of the Czech population supports EU accession, the "yes" campaign in the Czech Republic has been lackluster, to say the least. Count on 20-30% of eligible voters, maybe more -- the hard-core Communist voters, plus if a fair chunk of ODS (Klaus) voters who decide to throw caution to the wind -- to say "no" outright. These are the ones who will bother to vote. (Historically, the Communists Party has been the best at "getting out the vote.")

It's been said before, but should be said again: If the weather's nice on the auspicious date of Friday, June 13, all bets are off. Count on most city dwellers skipping the vote to retreat to the countryside for the weekend. You could easily see a turn-out of less than 50%. You do the math.

Side note: If you're interested in Czech news, you should subscribe to Prague Monitor, an excellent (and free) new online news digest put together my my friends Bryn Perkins (of Shakespeare and Sons bookshop; see new Flash website!) and Theo Schwinke.


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