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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Disclosure Referendum Misses Mark in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- A referendum that proponents hoped would force investors to disclose the source of funds used in privatization deals has fallen far short of the 50 percent voter participation required to make it valid, officials announced.

According to official results released in parliament and carried by Slovak state radio Sunday, only 19.90 percent of the more than 3.8 million registered voters took part in the Saturday referendum.

The vote was to decide whether there should be a law requesting the disclosure of the origin of money used for the purchase of state shops and enterprises since privatization began in 1991.

The referendum was initiated by Jan Luptak, head of the leftist Association of Workers, a group that split from the former Communist Party. He collected enough signatures for the referendum to take place.

"This is just a waste of state money," said the chairwoman of a local voting committee in Bratislava, who refused to give her name. "People (on Saturday) went out of town for the weekend, they don't care anymore. Everyone is disgusted by the politicians."

In many formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, questions have been raised about the source of funds used by private entrepreneurs to purchase public assets.

In some of those countries, evidence of corruption has been tolerated during the transition from state-controlled communist economies to market economies.

Last summer, the Slovak parliament passed a law requiring disclosure of tax payments and bank accounts in future privatization deals. But supporters of the referendum argued that the measure was insufficient because it did not cover deals completed before the law was passed.

"This referendum expresses people's helplessness against all injustice that has happened in privatization" in Slovakia, said Peter Ondera of the referendum's press office.

"The same parliamentary deputies responsible for the insufficient legislation are involved in dirty privatization," he alleged. "There is simply too much corruption."

And Klara Novanova, a businesswoman, said: "This referendum is complete nonsense. There should have been a referendum about the split of Czechoslovakia."

Slovakia gained independence on Jan. 1, 1993, in the breakup of the Czechoslovak Federation. Since the breakup, Slovaks have suffered from high unemployment and stagnant living standards.