A petition with more than 585,000 signatures demanding a referendum on new elections in Slovakia was handed over to President Zuzana Čaputová’s office on Monday. The next step will depend on the president, who announces the plebiscite.
The parties and politicians who suffered defeat in last year’s parliamentary elections were mainly behind the collection of signatures for the referendum. In the modern history of Slovakia, only one plebiscite was successful, while the others failed due to low turnout.
Čaputová now has 30 days to set a date for the referendum. However, this deadline does not apply if the head of state has the referendum issue examined by the Constitutional Court. According to her spokesperson Martin Strižinec, the president will announce her decision after the examination of the petition confirms that it has been really supported by at least 350,000 people as required by the constitution. Some Slovak lawyers have previously questioned whether holding a referendum on new elections is in accordance with the constitution, although there have been two similar referendums in the country before.
“A referendum is a sovereign right. I want to reject doubts about whether people have a right to this type of referendum. As the power of the deputy comes from the people, then the people have the right to ask him to shorten his term,” said Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, the leader of the Voice-Social Democracy (Hlas – SD) party founded last year.
According to opinion polls, Hlas–SD, which participated in collecting the signatures, is the most popular party in the country.
For example, Former Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Direction — Social Democracy (Smer -SD) party also collected signatures. After defeat in the last year’s election, his party ended in the opposition after many years in power.
According to the Slovak Constitution, a majority of eligible voters must participate in the referendum for it to be valid. Only one referendum in the country met this condition, namely the vote on Slovakia’s accession to the EU. The last time Slovaks held a referendum was in 2015, which concerned the protection of the traditional family. However, it was invalid due to the low turnout.
The popularity of the current four-member government coalition among the people of Slovakia has gradually declined, with the strongest government party, Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), recording the most significant drop in voter preferences. In March, the party leader, Igor Matovič, resigned as prime minister to resolve the government crisis. The new government continues in almost the same composition as the previous one. Matovič became minister of Ffnance, while his OĽaNO colleague Eduard Heger took the post of prime minister.
Title image: Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová (The office of the President of Slovakia / prezident.sk)