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Czech Constitutional Court postpones repeat elections in Brno municipality

Brno, 9.1.2015 19:43, (ROMEA)
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  cs.wikipedia, Ludek
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: cs.wikipedia, Ludek

On Thursday, 8 January, the Czech Constitutional Court (Ústavní soud- ÚS) halted preparations for a repeat of the local elections in the Brno-sever Municipal Department until it reaches a decision on complaints filed by the Municipal Department and Mayor Rostislav Hakl (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD). The Regional Court in Brno cancelled the results of last year's elections over vote-buying and Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec then announced new elections for 14 March.

In response to the complaints filed, the ÚS has postponed the execution of those decisions by the minister and the Regional Court. Miroslava Sedláčková, spokesperson for the ÚS, has confirmed that to the Czech News Agency.

The justification for this decision will be published Friday. According to Sedláčková, the Constitutional Court justices do not want to forecast how they will ultimately rule on the complaints.

The proceedings in both complaints have been combined and Justice Jan Musil will be the rapporteur for them. Today's decision extends the period of uncertainty that now obtains at the local authority.

According to attorney Zdeněk Koudelka, who is representing both Hakl and the municipal department, the elections will not take place until the ÚS rules on the complaints. Even if the verdict were to be handed down within one month, which the spokesperson belives is realistic, the March deadline for repeating the elections would probably not be met due to the time needed for preparations.

Both of the complaints filed with the court concern the same issue, i.e., the cancellation of the election results, but each argues that different rights have been violated. Hakl filed his complaint as an elected town councilor who has lost the opportunity to serve as a result of the court's decision.

Koudelka previously told the Czech News Agency that the municipal department is complaining that its right to self-administration has been violated. The Regional Court in Brno overturned the elections because of vote-buying in the Romani community, where people were instructed to vote for Mayor Hakl in exchange for free entry to a party where beverages and food were also free of charge.

The constitutional complaint was unanimously approved by the municipal department councilors; the local authority has been managed to date by a coalition between ČSSD and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). They disagree with the Regional Court's verdict.

Hakl said be believes the number of potentially influenced voters was too small to actually influence the electoral outcome. The motion to invalidate the election in Brno-sever was filed with the Regional Court by the Christian Democratic local councilor Petr Hladík.

In his complaint, Hladík referenced the fact that some Romani voters cast their ballots in exchange for cash or for free entry to the party. The event was organized by Adam Adámek, who claimed his intention had been to instruct Romani people on how to participate in local elections so their circumstances might improve.

The court found that the Romani voters had not participated freely in the elections. Hakl has always claimed to have had nothing to do with the event and to have never given anyone anything in exchange for voting for him.

bau, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, vote-buying, Soud, Volby 2014



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