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Chair of Czech party says he expects local cell to call on mayor to withdraw from election in response to open letter protesting the mayor's racism

15.7.2022 8:17
From left to right: Activist Jaroslav Miko, Mayor of Poděbrady Jaroslav Červinka (STAN), and chair of STAN Vít Rakušan, who is also First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of the Czech Republic (Collage: Romea.cz)
From left to right: Activist Jaroslav Miko, Mayor of Poděbrady Jaroslav Červinka (STAN), and chair of STAN Vít Rakušan, who is also First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of the Czech Republic (Collage: Romea.cz)

There is growing pressure on the leadership of the "Mayors and Independents" movement (STAN) and its chair, Vít Rakušan, to remove the Mayor of Poděbrady, Jaroslav Červinka, as a candidate in the upcoming local elections because of his racist remarks. RomanoNet, an umbrella organization of pro-Romani and Romani organizations, called on the leadership of STAN yesterday morning to remove Červinka as a candidate.

Subsequently, both non-Romani and Romani residents of the Czech Republic began signing a petition with the same aim that was begun by Romani activist Jan Houška. Yesterday evening Jaroslav Miko, founder of the civil society initiative Czechs Are Helping (Češi pomáhají) and a member of the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá romská unie), published an open letter to Rakušan, who is also the First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister.

"Chairman Rakušan, I am hereby asking you as the chair of the STAN movement to consider the option of removing this racist Červinka from the candidate list of the STAN movement for the local elections this year," Jaroslav Miko posted to Facebook. In the discussion beneath the letter online, Rakušan stated that he is waiting for the local cell in the Nymburk district to convene on the issue.

Rakušan also said he believes Červinka's words were inexcusable. "Our party is based on subsidiarity," he posted.

"I am waiting for the local cell to call on the mayor to withdraw from the candidate list and as chair, in accordance with our procedures and statutes, I will also be advocating for that result," the head of STAN posted. News server Romea.cz is publishing Jaroslav Miko's open letter in full translation.

Esteemed chair of the STAN movement and Minister Vít Rakušan,  

I have decided to contact you through this post in the form of a personal request because the matter that I will be speaking of is one that I personally consider to be quite serious, and I am doing so publicly because it is no secret that I voted for the STAN movement and actively contributed to your election campaign this year.

In that context I even had the opportunity to be present when the election results were announced as part of the PIRSTAN election team in Prague, so I was able to share the joy of your coalition's electoral success.' [Translator's Note: The Pirates and STAN ran together as PIRSTAN

My motivation to support your movement was clear. I did not want the ANO movement, which is populist, to eventually govern here again with the support of extremists in the form of the SPD ["Freedom and Direct Democracy"] or the communists, and at the same time I believed such an electoral success was realistic, unlike many others.

What I also associated with that vision of political success for STAN was a chance for genuine change in the culture of politics in this country - which, after all, is what your movement clearly declared as its goal and promised to do.

Now to the matter at hand.

Naturally I am closely following the scandal of the Mayor of Poděbrady and member of STAN, Mr.Červinka, who is a racist.   

This gentleman, years ago, declared in front of the Police of the Czech Republic that Romani people should be shot dead.

Červinka was officially reprimanded for that remark at the time by the municipality of Poděbrady.  

Today, this same gentleman feels it is necessary that he publicly recall that remark and considers the incident quite a funny story, according to his own words.

While Mayor Červinka has since apologized publicly for those racist sentences, how possible is it to perceive his apology as sincere and not tendentious when, in the same breath, he added today that the disciplinary reprimand he received all those years ago had been too harsh, even unfairly so? 

Minister, you know that Romani people in this country are being forced to watch how unfairly the Czech state is behaving toward Romani refugees from Ukraine, many of whom have been forced to spend a longer amount of time in conditions that are undignified here. This is all the more said because even the youngest of children have not been spared this treatment.

Czech Roma face repeated attacks from President Zeman, who so frequently and gladly incites hatred of Romani people publicly and uses deceptive arguments alleging that 90 % of Czech Roma do not work.

The Czech Roma and I myself - as you know very well, I am part Romani, my wife is Romani, and my children are dark-skinned - recently had to hear from the mouth of Mr Tomio Okamura in his time as vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies that Roma represent a security threat for the Czech Republic, just because they dare to have children. The lower house was incapable of removing him from that post at that time, but I dare say that in the developed democratic world it would have been unthinkable to allow him to remain in that role. 

I know that back then your options were limited, as your party was in opposition, but in the case of Červinka, who is a racist, your room for a genuinely vigorous response is now the diametric opposite, and it is in that spirit that this public request of mine is being made.  

Chairman Rakušan, I am hereby asking you as the chair of the STAN movement to consider the option of removing this racist Červinka from the candidate list of the STAN movement for the local elections this year. 

I know you have already publicly condemned Mr Červinka's remarks, but unfortunately, you closed the entire matter by saying "let the voters decide".

Yes, it is always the case that in a country that is democratic, eventually the voters decide, and let us be grateful for that opportunity, as the option to decide about public affairs through free elections is today something for which the Ukrainians, for example, are laying down their lives.

Each political party, however, also presents itself in particular through the people it places on its candidate lists, thereby making it possible for precisely those people to be the ones to influence public affairs and have a much more intensive impact on the public.

At the same time, by choosing appropriate candidates, the culture of politics is formed to a significant degree, which is one of your priorities.

I am asking you, therefore, esteemed Chairman Rakušan, to go beyond mere campaign proclamations and to turn your promises into actual deeds. 

After all, when all is said and one, this is not just about Mr Červinka, who is a racist, but about a matter of principle and also of trust which, as we all know, can be easily lost and is difficult to regain. 

Thanks.

Jaroslav Miko, founder of the civil society initiative Czechs Are Helping (Češi pomáhají), member of the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá romská unie)

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Komunální, Politics, Racism, starosta



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