A Slovak referendum on a constitutional amendment failed to achieve the required turnout of at least 50% of eligible voters. As the state election commission announced on Sunday, only 27.25% of eligible voters participated, making the vote invalid. Of those who went to the polls, 97.5% said they were in favor of the constitutional amendment. Formally, however, this has no effect.
The aim of the constitutional amendment sought by opposition parties was to allow early elections in Slovakia, as in many other EU countries. Until now, the Slovak constitution stipulated that the parliament, which is elected for four years, cannot be dissolved prematurely, even if a government falls apart and no majority is found for a new coalition. The constitutional court made this clear in 2021 and at the same time recommended changing the constitution. The left-wing opposition forced the referendum in the summer of 2022 with around 400,000 signatures.
A three-party conservative-populist coalition currently governs Bratislava, which has not had a parliamentary majority since the summer. Furthermore, she lost a no-confidence vote in December and has since been in office only on an interim basis. According to surveys, government parties are threatened with failure in the new elections. That’s why they wanted to prevent the referendum from succeeding. Prime Minister Eduard Heger has criticized that this only serves the objective of the two social democratic parties to regain power.
Non-party president Zuzana Caputova also criticized the referendum as a “one-party publicity campaign”. At the same time, however, she called on governing parties to find a way to hold early elections by the end of January. Against the background of the war in neighboring Ukraine and the great internal social and economic problems, Slovakia cannot afford political agony. The president could establish an official government. But without a parliamentary majority, even that would hardly be able to act.