Quo Vadis, Slovakia or PERSPECTIVES on the 2012 Slovak Parliamentary Elections
On Saturday, 10th March 2012, Slovakia held the 6th general elections in its history. 5,956 polling stations opened their doors at 7 o’clock in the morning, thus officially allowing all citizens to come and express their opinions by voting for a party of their preference. This year, the Election Day had been anticipated with unease, not only due to the anti-Gorilla protests in the preceding months. I think I can honestly say that we were all at least a bit curious about the election results. I was not an exception. My expectations were maybe even higher because as a poll worker, I was part of the whole process.
Now, after all the votes were counted and our nation finally discovered who’s going to run the government for the next (hopefully) 4 years, the show must go on. We all made our decisions, so there’s nobody else to be blamed for the outcome. WE are responsible. But the question is whether we are really satisfied with what we all did? Or did we just resolve to give a second (well, maybe even third or fourth) chance to the famous “lesser of two evils principle”? You know, it is always difficult to choose one of two bad options, so we simply voted for a lesser threat... BUT is it really like that indeed? What is the case of our choice? I personally feel that I am not the only one truly interested in what Slovaks actually think. So I decided to find out what it is really like to experience this current event with all the PERSPECTIVES involved.
Citizens’ point of view
Slovaks as free nationals of our democratic society of the 21st century have the full right to express their satisfaction (or maybe not) with everything that took place in our country in the previous months. I conducted research into what it is now like to call oneself Slovak and whether people are still proud of our country. I questioned 30 different people about their current attitude. Their different backgrounds assured the objectivity of the research, ranging from university students to blue collar workers and from the self-employed to the unemployed. Surprisingly, their viewpoints were not as distinctly different as one would have expected.
Regarding the current political situation, a total number of 46 % of those asked think that our country is in emergency. They agreed upon the fact that something had to be done about it, but 16 % of them are unsure as to what that “something” should be. 23 % are afraid that nothing’s going to help us and our lives are seriously in danger. On the contrary, 13 % find it all funny. Nothing, even the current crisis, could ruin their peace of mind.
I personally think that politicians can be pretty satisfied with their appeal to citizens. They can now benefit from their calls: “Vote, people! Your decision counts“, because only 2 people out of 30 said they were not planning on going to vote.
On the other hand, it would be devastating for our leaders to hear that their costly campaigns were largely ineffective. According to my research, 56 % of the people literally hated all those signs and posters with well-known faces. 36 % did not even bother to pay attention and if they finally did, they responded negatively. It would be no doubt a disappointment to find out the truth: “I always laugh at it. It is just all about empty phrases, broken promises and certainly NOT white lies.” That is exactly what you said, guys.
And what about the Gorilla protests? Surprisingly, nobody was clearly positive. Nobody said that they were perfect and full stop. However, 43 % of those asked believe that Gorilla was something that woke us up, connected us all and forced us to make a move. The majority thought that the protests have nothing to do with the election results. Nonetheless, 23 % said that it is possible that the document itself influenced the outcome, but are unsure to what extent.
“It is such a shame. The thing is that politicians are not what they used to be. They have simply forgotten what their role in this world is. They are no longer aware of the fact that they only represent us, their voters. They are not modest administrators of our money anymore. And that is the problem.”
Poll worker’s point of view
If you do not mind having to wake up at five a.m. and going back to bed the following morning without any rest, you would most probably enjoy the job of a poll clerk. Anyway, that is exactly what I did on Saturday. Doing paperwork all day, collecting materials in the evening and counting votes at night was a bit exhausting, I admit. At least for my back and legs. It just isn’t as easy as one would expect. Everything’s easier from the perspective of an outsider. But inside the polling station it is actually different. Never mind, I had a lot of fun as well, chatting with my colleagues. You know, memories are always the best and sometimes they had nothing to do with what is in fact going on. What I enjoyed the most about the Election Day was actually the sound of a Slovak flag blowing in the wind after midnight, swinging on a playground swing set and refreshments, especially our unusual combination of cheese with anything available at 3 a.m. in the morning. You wouldn’t believe how hungry one gets...
Inside the polling place
“What are you doing there so long? You are not one of the candidates! Are you trying to add your name to the ballot or what?” I lifted my head up from my respectable position at the table to see what was going on in the room. I tittered. There was a man, staring at the ballot, apparently unable to work out what to do with it. “Shut up, you boyo. I have my full right to be there! Of course, I want to become a candidate. Anyway, who wouldn’t?“ Laughter rippled through the whole room. There were two friends arguing over their place in a long queue. You would not believe, but there was rarely a peaceful moment when nobody appeared.
Such comments were not sporadic in our polling station. With so many people coming in to express their opinion and thus giving their favourite candidate a vote, it was sometimes impossible to take a break. Especially in the morning. It seemed endless – recording voters’ names, checking their photos and IDs, verifying the voter identification numbers... Even now I can hear somewhere inside my head a voice saying, “Twelve - eleven. Seven – thirty. Five – sixteen.”
You can see that sometimes it was pretty serious.
Student’s point of view
Three questions to a university student Jozef Kujan about his Election Day
“What about your Saturday? Was there anything unusual which captured your attention?”
J: ”Well, to be honest, it was the polling station itself that surprised me the most. Such high election attendance was something that I would never have expected. I do not mind having to wait in a queue, but I have never experienced something like that! Although I understand the importance of this year’s National Council Election, I would never have said that so many people would actually turn out.“
“What is, in your opinion, the reason why so many people finally came?”
J: “Nice weather (laughing). Just kidding. To be serious, I think that we actually realized how important it is to go and express our opinions. It is essential for the future of our country, for our children and grandchildren. There’s nobody else to be blamed. It is always us who decide.”
“Last but not least, what do you think about the election results? Are you satisfied?”
J: “To be honest, it could have been expected. There’s nothing more to say. I fulfilled my duty as a citizen.”
So, what do you think? Are you satisfied with the winners or does the result make you even angrier? If you are right now ordering plane tickets in order to move to a different country, consider this comment: “Ficovi jednoSMERnú letenku do Grécka ani netreba kupovať. Nebojte sa, on prinesie Grécko sem.” (“Do not bother with buying a one-way ticket to Greece for Fico. Do not worry; he will bring Greece to Slovakia.”)
Take it positively. At least we do not have to think about where to go for our annual summer holiday.
Photos: Martina Bednáriková
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