On November 10, Bratislava (and all other municipalities around Slovakia) is voting for its new mayor as well as for mayors of the individual city districts. I want to vote too but I have a problem. None of the candidates, in fact, seem to be much concerned about involving foreigners in their campaigns. Except perhaps one of them, who presents his plan in both Slovak and English, none of the candidates offer the non-Slovak speaking population of Bratislava a proper insight into their plans. How are we supposed to vote like this?
As a constituant of this great city with the right to vote, I would like to be able to choose from the full range of candidates available and make a well-informed choice about who should be leading Bratislava into the future (at least for the next four years). Since none of the candidates, bar one, published their plans in English, I am affraid my choice might be biased from the start. Yes, I could ask someone to summarize the plans of each candidate. However, as politics is very coloured and very personal, this will not help me much in my decision whose box to tick on November 10. Plus, it may solve the problem for me, but not necessarily for the rest of the foreign population.
I wonder, therefore, whether by neglecting to address foreigners, the candidates don’t (unintentionally) discourage them from voting or to vote with an understandable bias for the plans available in English. Considering the amount of registered foreigners in this city, this might potentially even impact the results of the election, simply because some candidate cleverly thought of involving the foreign population in his campaigns, while others did not. I feel that each non-Slovak speaking voter should have the possibility to weigh his options. Because, let’s be honest, no one votes for a plan he does not understand, right? And what if you think the only candidate you can read up on in English is not the right person to head the city’s council? Since you don’t know the other candidates’ standpoints, you probably simply won’t vote. And that is a problem as well, isn’t it?
Perhaps I am overestimating the interest of foreigners in Bratislava to vote for this city’s future, or perhaps it is only my own problem I am not able to fully understand the plan of each candidate. Perhaps it is neither of these two. Perhaps it is a matter of the mayoral candidates closing their eyes to the considerable foreign population living and working in Bratislava. Perhaps most candidates see Bratislava as still a very Slovak city instead of an energetic, multi-cultural, multi-national capital.
Foreigners in Bratislava do have a voice and they should be able to vote consciously and well-informed. If mayoral candidates ignore that fact, it feels to me more as a step backwards than a step forwards in the future of a city with such potential. Perhaps in four years, there will be more than just one candidate realizing this.