Czech Christian Democrats strip local councilor of party membership over his racist remarks about refugees
Daniel Kalenda, a local councilor in the town of Liberec and member of the Czech Christian Democratic Party (KDU-ČSL) who made hateful, pejorative remarks about the refugees who recently perished in a truck in eastern Austria near the Hungarian border, has been stripped of his membership by party leaders. Kalenda posted the following remarks, among others, to social networking sites: "God, 71 dead on a highway in Austria... And should we be crying? They say they ran out of air the minute the doors were closed. What do you expect? You shouldn't be so stupid as to get into a truck like that. The very best thing of all would be for them to stay home. They say the world is crushed [by this news]... I am not mourning them, I'm not sorry for them... Not at all! This element doesn't belong here, they are filth and scum."
The national committee of the KDU-ČSL met to discuss stripping Kalenda of his membership last Tuesday. According to Czech MP Ondřej Benešík, the working group included the party's consultants and experts from the fields of economics, health care, home affairs, justice and social affairs.
According to a party spokesperson, 18 of the 19 committee members voted to strip Kalenda of membership and one abstained. Kalenda did not attend the session.
The councilor is now able to appeal to other party authorities regarding his exclusion. "I feel like Master Jan Hus [Translator's Note: A late 14th and early 15th-century religious reformer who was burned at the stake]. Unfortunately I have expressed what is the opinion of most citizens of this republic. I never approved of the death of those people, I just refrained from expressing regret over their misfortune," Kalenda said in an SMS message after hearing he had been stripped of his membership.
It was anticipated that Kalenda would be stripped of his membership. His racist post was condemned by party chair Pavel Bělobrádek and other party representatives.
Kalenda was a member of the party's district committee in Liberec as well as a member of its national arbitration commission. "I see this as the only possible denouement to this case. It's an unusual solution for a substandard situation. His remarks were absolutely unheard-of," said Jan Svoboda, chair of the Municipal Committee of the party in Liberec.
Czech politicians not usually prosecuted or stripped of membership for hate
In the Czech Republic it is by no means a matter of course that politicians are prosecuted or stripped of their party membership for remarks that are hateful, insulting, pejorative or xenophobic. During the 2014 campaign for municipal governments and the Senate, the Deputy Mayor of Prostějov, Alena Rašková, ran for mayor on the Social Democratic ticket and did not hesitate to play a racist tune.
"The Roma have children as a business so they can take as much welfare as possible from the state," she said in an interview published by a local paper. "I absolutely hate the behavior of some Roma who basically don't even suspect that something like work even exists. They live to hold out their hands and say to the state: 'Pay!' ... The saddest thing is that many doctors will confirm any kind of disease they can for the Roma so they'll be entitled to welfare....".
Last summer Tomio Okamura, who was at the time an MP and chair of the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" movement (Úsvit), said that calling Lety by Písek a concentration camp would mean promoting a "lie and a myth". Okamura claims no one was ever killed at Lety and that the prisoners who died there did so as a result of diseases they brought to the camp because of their previous travelling way of life or as a result of old age.
"The victims in that camp decidedly were not the victims of any kind of Holocaust. On the contrary, it dishonors the actual victims of the Holocaust, whether Jews or Roma, in the real concentration camps, to compare them," the MP said.
Okamura, who is infamous for his controversial, intolerant remarks, was never prosecuted for this, as police claimed they could not find evidence of lawbreaking in his statements. The first politician in the independent Czech Republic to ever exploit anti-Romani sentiment and ride a wave of popularity in return was Republican Party chair Miroslav Sládek.
"Gypsies should be held criminally liable from the moment of their birth, because that is their greatest crime," that politician said in the 1990s, shocking the international public. Ever since then, certain Czech politicians have spared no effort when it comes to populist, racist remarks.
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