Free Czech 'election trains' will deliver Slovaks to the polls for Saturday's crucial vote

Over 1,000 people – mainly students – have registered for the free trains, which aim to boost democratic participation during Slovakia's general election.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 29.09.2023 11:04:00 (updated on 29.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

With the Slovak general election taking place this Saturday, two special trains will transport Slovak citizens from Czechia to their homeland free of charge in a bid to promote democratic participation. 

The project, co-organized by non-governmental organization Globsec, has reported that over 1,000 people have expressed interest in the service. 

Helping boost electoral turnout

Notably, Slovakia does not permit its citizens to vote in parliamentary elections at its embassies abroad. Those desiring to vote via postal ballots from overseas were required to register by the first half of August this year. Henrieta Kunová of Globsec explained the predicament faced by many potential voters, stating: "Many students change accommodation during the summer and do not have permanent addresses, which made it impossible for them to receive their voter ID cards by post during the summer."

Of the 1,200 people who registered for the complimentary train service, roughly half identified themselves as students. The campaign primarily targeted the younger demographic, recognizing that the financial burden of train travel might be more challenging for them. Nevertheless, organizers did not restrict train access solely to students.

The two trains have a maximum passenger capacity of 700 individuals each and were secured through collaboration with the Slovak national railway carrier. The associated costs for this transport initiative are covered by the participating NGOs, although specific financial details were not disclosed by Globsec. It is important to note that the electoral trains strictly adhere to regulations, forbidding any promotion of political parties during the journeys.

Historically, on the day of parliamentary elections in Slovakia, numerous Slovaks have traveled from the Czech Republic to their homeland via regular trains. Kuty, a village in western Slovakia, has served as a common stop for international trains traversing the primary railway corridor connecting Prague and Bratislava. At the Kuty polling station, these Slovaks have exercised their right to vote using their voter ID cards, contributing to the democratic process in their home country.

A tight race

According to opinion polls, the Direction–Social Democracy (Smer) party led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico is on course to narrowly win the election. A survey by pollster Median from earlier this week found that Smer received 19.8 percent of the vote share, although the social-liberal Progressive Slovakia party is almost level with 19.3 percent. 

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However, a separate poll from this week – released by the AKO agency – put Progressive Slovakia ahead by 0.3 percentage points.

President Petr Pavel earlier this month commented on Fico's foreign policy stances, suggesting that if Fico were to become prime minister again, it could negatively impact relations between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Pavel emphasized that Fico's differing opinions, particularly on foreign policy matters, could strain the historically close ties between the two nations.

Fico responded in anger, accusing Pavel of “interfering” in Slovakia’s election. 

This proactive initiative to facilitate the return of Slovak citizens for the parliamentary elections underscores the commitment to democratic principles and aims to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to participate in shaping their nation's future.

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