A referendum to prevent granting new rights to gays in Slovakia, an ex-Communist state in the European Union’s east, failed Saturday due to a low turnout as opponents of the popular vote urged people to stay at home. Only 21.4% of 4.41 million eligible voters cast their ballots, below the required 50% quorum in this predominantly Roman Catholic country of five million people to make the national-vote results legally binding, final results released Sunday by the Slovak electoral commission showed. They confirmed preliminary results published late Saturday. The final tally also showed that between 90.3% and 94.5% of 944,209 Slovaks voting in the referendum agreed to all three questions it asked: whether marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman; whether to ban same-sex couples from adopting children; and whether parents can let their children skip school classes involving education on sex and euthanasia. The Slovak antigay vote followed a similar referendum that succeeded in Croatia, also a Roman Catholic EU member, in 2013. The different results reflect cultural differences within Europe on gay rights. Some people in mostly ex-Communist eastern EU states, including also Hungary and Poland, are against what they view as excessively liberal policies such as legalizing various forms of same-sex unions and children adoptions by gay couples possible elsewhere in the 28-nation bloc, including Austria and the Czech Republic.
Almost 1 million people cast their ballot in the February 7 referendum which, as its initiators say, sought the protection of family. The turnout, however, failed to surpass the required 50-percent quorum as only 21.41 percent of eligible voters went to the polling stations. It was the third lowest of the eight referendums already held in Slovakia and surprised analysts as pre-referendum polls suggested that about 35 percent would attend the voting. Despite the failed vote, both the referendum’s organisers and representatives of the LGBTI community consider the results a success and claim they want to continue with the discussion it has opened. “For me, as a sociologist, the turnout is really surprisingly low,” Martin Slosiarik of the Focus polling agency told the public-service Slovak Radio (SRo), adding that a pre-referendum poll Focus conducted for the Sme daily suggested the most pessimistic variant for turnout at about 30 percent. Of more than 4.4 million eligible voters, only 944,674 people came to cast their ballot. The highest turnout was in Prešov Region (32.31 percent), while the lowest was in Banská Bystrica Region (15.84 percent).