Irregularities reported as voting starts in Slovenia referendum

The statement came after it was revealed that the Labour Ministry had delayed providing information to care homes on how residents can cast absentee ballots, leading to protests by campaign organisers and the elderly. The ministry has apologised and attributed the delay to human error. [Shutterstock/AntonSokolov]

Proponents of a referendum on Slovenia’s Waters Act have sharply criticised the organisation of early voting, alleging voter suppression had taken place.

“We are faced with an inadmissible curtailing of voting rights,” said Aljoša Petek of the Legal Information Centre, an NGO.

The statement came after it was revealed that the Labour Ministry had delayed providing information to care homes on how residents can cast absentee ballots, leading to protests by campaign organisers and the elderly. The ministry has apologised and attributed the delay to human error.

The referendum scheduled for this Sunday revolves around a new law NGOs say would pave the way for the development of coastal areas and restrict public access. The government claims the changes in fact limit development.

As early voting started on Tuesday amid reports of long queues at the sole dedicated polling station in Ljubljana. In the past, early voting was conducted at a dozen-odd polling stations in the capital.

According to Petek, the National Electoral Commission had failed to secure sufficient staff for the poorly marked polling station.

In Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest city, several people reported being misinformed about the location of their polling station. “We believe this is a mistake committed by the National Electoral Commission and that people’s voting right has been curtailed as a result,” said Marja Kodre of Institute 8 March, one of the proponents of the referendum.

Kodre said there were also problems with voting from abroad as the National Electoral Commission has used old records. The affected voters have been promised the situation will be resolved by Sunday.

Adding further confusion, reports circulating on social media said voters who were trying to cast their votes at their typical polling stations were told that they in fact had to vote tens of kilometres away in a different administrative unit.

The National Electoral Commission said it was working with administrative units to resolve any outstanding issues. Its president, Dušan Vučko, said the onus was on voters to check where exactly their polling station is.

(Sebastijan R. Maček | STA)

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