Turnout for Saaremaa merger referendum exceptionally low
The majority of Saaremaa residents who participated in Sunday’s referendum on the potential merger of the island’s 11 local governments voted "yes."f Local government councils must make a decision regarding the island-wide merger before the end of the year, however referendum results are not binding.
While a total of 5,882 citizens from Lääne-Saare Municipality had the right to vote in the referendum, the polling station serving the part of the municipality with the largest population had seen just one local resident come in to cast their vote by Sunday afternoon. While the municipality had ordered fewer bulletins due to expected low turnout, the number of unused ballots was still astonishing, reported ETV’s news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
"We ordered 2,400 copies of the bulletin, and by noon on Sunday just 42 had been used," said Lääne-Saare Municipality secretary Andrus Lulla.
Turnout for the referendum was exceptionally low across the island, with the highest level of participation in any one local government, reported by Torgo Municipality, coming in at only 17.2 percent. Kuressaaare, the capital of Saare County, recorded the island’s lowest turnout, with just 2.4 percent of the town’s just over 13,000 residents taking part in the referendum.
All in all, the majority of the island’s 11 municipalities voted "yes" to the island-wide merger; the residents of just three Saaremaa municipalities voted against it.
The only local government not to participate in Sunday’s referendum was the 900-resident Pöide Municipality, which does not want to voluntarily merge with Saaremaa’s other local governments and instead is hoping that the new state government will halt Estonia’s administrative reform.