High turnout urged as early voting starts

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor cast his vote on Tuesday in early voting for the 24 April general election, joining civil society organisations and prominent politicians in urging citizens to exercise their right to vote.

“Exercise the right to directly influence the future of our country,” Pahor said after casting his ballot in Ljubljana, adding that each vote was an invaluable building block of democracy conveying people’s expectations about the direction of Slovenia’s development.

“The situation in Europe and the world, the post-pandemic era and the war in Ukraine, means that we will face more than the usual problems in the coming years. It is very likely that this period will also be marked by major strategic challenges for Slovenia and our shared Europe,” he warned.

The president finds this is a cause for concern, but not for fear. “A sufficiently politically cohesive Slovenia is capable of turning all these challenges to our common advantage,” he said. He also noted that without democracy Slovenia’s independence would not have been and will not be.

A number of other senior officials also cast today their votes in early voting, which will last until Thursday, including Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj.

As early voting got under way, Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković called on voters to go exercise their right. Voting is a right and a duty, he said, adding that every vote counted.

He urged people to vote for politicians who will respect human rights and courts and strive towards a peaceful co-existence. “Let’s put an end to terror, tear gas, fences,” he added.

Civil society organisations have mounted their own bring-out-the-vote campaigns.

Voice of the People, a group of more than 100 organisations and several thousands individuals, has been informing people of ways to vote.

They have set a target of breaking the voter turnout record and, in cooperation with the taxi drivers’ trade union, they will organise free rides to polling stations, an effort mainly dedicated to help the elderly.

The 8 March Institute, the NGO that has been active in recent weeks in promoting voter participation, is calling on citizens to vote by handing out flowers.

The Alliance for Democratic and Just Slovenia, a group uniting civil initiatives and liberal academics and researchers, also urged citizens to go cast their vote. “We are facing a historic decision: now it is more urgent than ever to go to the polls. This is an opportunity for all of us who want the best for our country, for ourselves and for future generations,” they said.

They noted that every vote counts to help stop the undermining of independent institutions, media, judiciary and police, adding that the best solution was to vote for either of the five centre-left parties that are considered to have the best chance of being elected to parliament.

The Assembly for the Republic, a conservative association, meanwhile urged voters to vote for parties that “governed the country through the pandemic with minimal limitations to daily life”.

The association’s president France Cukjati, a former MP for the Democrats (SDS), said people should vote for those who have “freedom for all citizens” in mind rather than those who abuse political, media and financial power.

In what was a last-minute change, face masks are not mandatory at polling stations, but the National Electoral Commission decided to recommended their use in line with the recent government decision to make masks optional and no longer a rule indoors.

The exceptions are polling stations in community health centres or care homes where masks are still obligatory. Other preventive measures, such as physical distancing, use of hand sanitisers, disinfecting pens and ventilating the premises, remain in place.