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Democracy arrived in Slovakia 30 years ago, but where are the voters?

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by Saphora Smith

TRNAVA, Slovakia – Slovakia is dealing with a special kind of apathy.

Only 30 years after the Velvet Revolution, communist rule ended and democracy was not increased until 1 During the last elections to the European Parliament, 8 voters made their voices heard.

With around 373 million people across the continent preparing to retake ballots Thursday, the question of why Slovaks do not strive to exercise this right is a mystery to some in this inland.

"I remember living 20 years ago," said 35-year-old Jano Zitnansky, who works in information technology. "My family was poor and she is not – but people have short memories.

Protesters gather in Wenceslas Square in Prague during the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Czechoslovakia later split peacefully with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. David Turnley / Corbis / VCG on Getty Images file

Peter Martini, 68, a former military driver who was stationed near the border between Austria and then Czechoslovakia.

"I appreciate that I have a choice now – there was only one party in communism." [HoweversincejoiningtheEuropeanUnionin2004SlovakiahasconsistentlyhadthelowestvoterturnoutastheblocchoselawmakersinitsparliamentwhichsharesthetimebetweenBrusselsBelgiumandBelgiumStrasbourgFrance

Only 13.05 Percent voted during the last EU elections in 2014. In all 28 countries, the average turnout was 42.61 percent. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg are required to vote.

Only 6 percent of 18-24 year olds voted at that time – compared to 28 percent across the EU.

The "European Roadshow" during their stopover in Trnava, Slovakia. Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News

"It's terrible, I know, but I'm one of them," said 20-year-old Jakub Švajka Švajka, saying he was not interested in European politics and not was going to vote this week.

Around 61 percent in the US According to the Census Bureau, 53 percent of voters have voted in the 2016 presidential elections.

A hard battle

It's people like Švajka who EU officials hope to win. [19659008] A Nationwide Campaign to Encourage Slovaks, One With the second vote, 17 cities across the country attended by around 5.4 million people.

"My goal is to double the turnout to around 25 percent," said Ladislav Miko, head of the European Commission's representation in Slovakia. "People laugh, they do not believe it's possible."

But in the small historic town of Trnava, north-east of Bratislava, only a handful of robust locals defy the unforeseen, biting winds to attend an electoral event. [19659008] Most of those who appeared on the "European Roadshow" said they had already decided to vote in the parliamentary elections – not the target audience of the event.

"In Slovakia people think about it, my village, my garden My home, that's it really. They do not think about the European elections, "said Lucia Valentovičová, who was walking along a main street with her daughter and sister, and decided not to attend.

This latest event to promote the European elections attracts almost nobody in Trnava, Slovakia. Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News

Later in an indoor discussion on the elections and what the EU In Slovakia, eight elderly people nodded as officials ticked off the benefits of the country's membership in the bloc.

"Usually it's not that bad," Miko said, explaining that in other cities, if the weather was good, she could have up to 1,000 subscribers.

The blame game

Some Slovaks complain that the EU feels isolated and has little influence on their daily lives. Others accused legislators of being interested in the problems in Slovakia and not worried.

54-year-old civil servant Jana Čaklošova is not planning a vote.

"The politicians do not work for Slovaks. They just sit in Brussels and make money, "she said of a Starbucks in Bratislava.

Anton Soják, 61, said he voted against any European elections." I barely knew the vote was taking place, "pensioner plumber said," I'm not interested in politics and do not know any of the candidates. I do not want to vote for people I do not know. " Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News

Candidates and political parties admit that elections to the European Parliament have traditionally not been a priority, and locals said the only giveaway That triggered an election was a burst of billboards along the main roads.

"Simply put, politicians and political parties since we joined the European Union in 2004 largely ignored this election," said Vladimír Bilčík, a candidate on the list of a coalition of the Progressive Slovak Party and the Party Together – Civil Democracy by Zuzana Čaputová [196590] 08] "What we are doing differently this time is that we have many personal campaigns," he said. "

19-year-old Maria Pluhárová persuaded more than 300 people to vote in this week's elections Erin said she had a passion for the EU because it made the outbreak of the war unlikely to make Europe and they could travel and study wherever they wished. But she was also unhappy about the income inequality within the block. "We in Slovakia are cheap labor, but we are part of the European Union, so I do not understand it." Recalling the fact that, 15 years after the accession of Slovakia, there is a pay gap between western and central Europe. Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News

Iveta Radičová, former Prime Minister of Slovakia, told NBC News that many voters said there was little reason to vote in the European elections.

"Nothing will change … what can 13 MPs do in Parliament? Nothing," she stressed, stressing that her country has only a small fraction of MPs 751 seats.

Radičová said she was not enthusiastic about the campaign and probably will not vote.

The majority of Slovaks say they feel "very" or "fairly" attached to the European Union, according to European Commission statistics. However, on the streets of Bratislava and Trnava, many said that the Central and Eastern Europeans would be considered second-class citizens by people living elsewhere in the block. Others expressed complaints about differences in living standards in the EU

. The average gross annual income of full-time employees in industry and services was 42,900 euros in Germany in 2011 and 45,793 euros in the Netherlands compared to 10,788 euros in the previous year, according to the latest official figures.

Others pointed to the government's alleged corruption as a contributing factor to Slovakia's national psyche. According to a report by the Berlin-based charity Transparency International, the country has a global reputation for perceived corruption in the public sector in 26 out of 31 European countries.

"Everyone knows if you have an E.U. To make money, you have to bribe someone, "said the fishmonger Patrik Sirotka, explaining why it makes no sense to vote." It's only in the bag, "he added, referring to the Slovak legislators.

The crisis of confidence in Slovak politics reached its peak When the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was shot dead last year together with his fiance Martina Kušnírová, the murder triggered tens of thousands of protests and the subsequent collapse of the Slovak government

Die 40- year old Jana Masarykova is one of the many Slovaks who do not want to vote this week. "We just follow the instructions from Brussels," she said as she took the train from Bratislava to Piešťany to visit her father with her son Matus. "I do not think Slovaks E.U. Politics because we are a small country. "Masarykova said the European Union is a long way from daily life." There is no connection to Slovakia, they do not care about local issues, "she added. Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News [19659013] Čaputová, an anti-corruption activist, who took to the streets with the demonstrators Many were hoping that the victory of Čaputová would move the Slovaks to the polls this week. According to official figures, the country's parliamentary elections in 2016 saw 59.82 percent of voters emerge

Juraj Šeliga, 28, is co-founder of For a Decent Slovakia, the political movement that organized the protests.

He turned his attention to encouraging people to vote this week and he believes that a turnout of 20 percent is possible. Gabriel Kuchta / for NBC News

"After the murder of Ján and Martina, Slovakia woke up and lost d people have started to become more interested in politics, "he said. "They watched what happened, they came to the protests and talked politics."

The polarized electoral field and the rise of the anti-establishment and extreme right-wing People's Party Our Slovakia, which some polls predict will win so much 12 percent of the vote could also play a role in raising interest.

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