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November 18, 2018
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Czech local elections see at least 150 Romani men and women running

10.9.2018 14:20
PHOTO:  Zdeněk Ryšavý, Romea.cz
PHOTO: Zdeněk Ryšavý, Romea.cz

At least 150 Romani candidates are running in local elections this autumn in the Czech Republic for seats on city councils and local assemblies. Voting will take place on Friday, 5 October and Saturday, 6 October in more than 6 200 municipalities where more than 200 000 candidates are competing.

In one-third of the precincts elections are also happening to the Czech Senate. Petr Jano is running in Chomutov as an independent for the upper house, while Petr Erin Kováč is running in Brno for the Romani Democratic Party (RDS) in the Senate race.

News server Romea.cz has attempted to map all of the Romani candidates in these contests. Where are they running, how many of them are there, and what chances do they have of succeeding?

According to the Czech Government's Report on the State of the Romani Minority, there were 13 Romani men and women elected to city councils and local assemblies in 2014. Pavel Červenický, for example, was elected mayor of Milhostov.

In this year's local elections at least 153 Romani people are candidates. According to estimates by news server Romea.cz, however, there may be as many as between 200 and 300 Romani candidates.

The 153 candidates identified are the minimum number, because we have definitely not managed to locate all the Romani people who are running. More than 216 000 candidates are competing countrywide.

Romea.cz has included just those candidates in its count whose Romani identity is known and self-declared, or candidates about whom others from their local areas have confirmed that they are Romani. We have not just counted what we considered to be Romani surnames.

The surname Lakatoš, for example, is shown nine times on the www.volby.cz website, and it is highly likely that some of those candidates may be Romani, but because we have not managed to confirm their ethnicity, that name is not on the Romea.cz list. Of the overall number of Romani candidates we have confirmed, 30 % are women, which approximately corresponds to the total number of female candidates in the race as a whole.

The average age of the Romani candidates is 45. Compared to the nationwide average, the Romani candidates are two years younger.

One-third of the Romani candidates are between 41 and 50 years old. The youngest Romani candidate is Stefanie Kočková, who is 21 and running in eighth place on the RDS list in the municipal department of Vítkovice.

The most senior Romani candidate is the legendary musician Antonín Gondolán, who is running for a seat at Prague City Hall in first place on the RDS candidate list. The most recent election in the country was last autumn's race for the lower house, where a total of just six Romani men and one Romani woman ran.

Four of those candidates - Matin Bajger, David Beňák, Anna Chválová and Karel Karika - are also running in the local elections now. The highest number of Romani candidates in one municipality was found by Romea.cz to be running in Trmice (18).

Ralsko has 16 Romani candidates and two other municipal departments are running 15 Romani candidates each. The RDS has established a 15-member candidate list in the municipal departments of Moravská Ostrava and Vítkovice.

More than 58 % of the Romani candidates are in 10th place or lower on the lists. Another 25 % are running at spots between fifth and 10th place. The number of Romani candidates per party and per place can be found in documents uploaded to the Czech-language version of this article.

INFOGRAPHIC

Infografika: Romští kandidáti ve volbách do zastupitelstev obcí 2018

Romani people may lead city council in Trmice

In 2014 the municipality of Trmice became a national phenomenon when Romani candidates with the "Together for Trmice / Independent Choice" movement Hnutí Společně pro Trmice/Nezávislá volba) managed to come in second place there with 19.22 % of the vote. They won three seats on the 15-seat local assembly as a result.

That same previously-successful group will run this year as well. Under the PRO! Trmice (FOR! Trmice) name they have built a list of 15 candidates, 13 of whom are Romani.

In Trmice there are also other Romani candidates running for other parties. Two are running for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) and three for the Association of Independents (Sdružení nestraníků).

News server Romea.cz has identified the most Romani candidates as being in Trmice - a total of 18. It is, therefore, very probable that Romani people will be seated on the local assembly and the question is whether they might not even manage to sit on the city council.

Ralsko: Will Váradi return to the city leadership?

It seems that another municipality where Romani candidates might significantly have a voice in the composition of the local assembly and perhaps even the city council is Ralsko. News server Romea.cz found the second-highest number of Romani candidates in one place there (16).

Romani candidates have been successful there in the past as well. Oto Váradi has served as vice-mayor and is running this year as the lead candidate for the SNK Evropští demokraté (SNK-European Democrats) list.

Another six Romani men and women are on that same list. There are four Romani candidates on the list of the Initiative for an Independent Ralsko, and the rest are on the lists of ANO, the KSČM, and New Ralsko (Nové Ralsko).

The voting system

for the elections to the local assemblies is the most complex electoral mechanism in the Czech Republic. The number of local assembly members elected depends on the population size.

  • Municipality with 500 inhabitants or less: five to 15 assembly members
  • 501 – 3 000 inhabitants: seven to 15 assembly members
  • 3 001 – 10 000 inhabitants: 11 to 25 assembly members
  • 10 001 – 50 000 inhabitants: 15 to 35 assembly members
  • 50 001 – 150 000 inhabitants: 25 to 45 assembly members
  • above 150 000 inhabitants: 35 to 55 assembly members
  • Capital City of Prague: 55 to 70 assembly members

Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) "Romani" candidate list in Kadaň

Another interesting town from the perspective of Romani candidates is Kadaň, which is larger than either Ralsko or Trmice. More than 14 000 voters will be
casting ballots there.

The local candidate list of the KDU-ČSL has been established and led by Romani candidates there. The lead candidate is Roman Bílí, with Emil Gorol running second and two Romani women running, one in sixth and one in ninth place. 

Another two Romani women are running for the Pirate Party in Kadaň.The KDU-ČSL is also running Romani candidate Marek Boho, chair of a local organization in Chomutov, in 15th place of a local coalition candidate list there.

There has been one Romani local assembly member since 2014 on the 21-member local assembly of the municipality of Vintířov (Sokolov district) and this year Romani candidates will run again on the full candidate list of the Association of Independent Candidates for Coexistence Together (Sdružení nezávislých
kandidátů za společné soužití). The lead candidate there is a 41-year-old social worker, Rudolf Tippan.

RDS fielding candidates in the Ostrava area

The only party that ethnically defines itself in its name, the Romani Democratic Party, has put together its candidate list in four municipalities. Just two of them have any hope of success, the municipal department of Moravská Ostrava/Přívoz, where the party is fielding candidates for the first time, and the municipal department of of Vítkovice.

The RDS candidate lists to those municipal departments have 15 people each, all of whom are Romani. During the previous municipal elections the RDS almost made it onto the local assembly in Vítkovice, with 4.34 % of the vote.

This year the leader of the list there is a member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, Josef Stojka, who wields significant influence within the Romani community throughout the Ostrava area, and it is just a question of whether he will manage to convince Romani people to vote for the party. News server Romea.cz has learned that the leading candidate on the RDS list for the Moravská Ostrava/Přívoz municipal department, Elena Gorolová, will be withdrawing her candidacy.   

The RDS has also put together candidates for Prague City Hall, but their three-member list, which is led by the legendary musician Antonín Gondolán, has little chance of success given how the electoral system works. RDS candidate Rastislav Lučanský, the sole candidate on the list in Brno, seems to be in a similar position.

Will David Beňák win in Prague 14 or Karel Karika in Ústí nad Labem?

Of the other Romani candidates, the greatest chance at success is enjoyed by David Beňák, who is running in Prague 14 for the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) in second place on the list. Beňák is currently the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion and was previously Deputy Human Rights Minister - he is also running for Prague City Hall, but is in 52nd place on the list and has no chance of success there.

The ČSSD got 12.1 % of the Prague 14 vote in the 2014 elections, which won them four seats. In order to win two seats (i.e., one that Beňák could occupy)
it should be enough for the ČSSD to win just 6 % of the Prague 14 vote this year. 

Vice-Mayor Karel Karika should not have a problem defending his seat in the municipal department of Ústí nad Labem - město, as he is running for the
local assembly as the lead candidate on the PRO! Ústí (FOR! Ústí) candidate list. Romani voters are expected to literally vote for him en masse because he
deserves a great deal of credit for helping to address the housing crisis that arose in Ústí nad Labem in June after two residential hotels were closed.

Karika is also running in seventh place on the list for Ústí nad Labem City Hall. Another incumbent, Pavel Červenický (age 53) is running in first place on the ČSSD candidate list and is expected to defend his post as mayor of Milhostov.    

Another current local assembly member, Marián Dancso, is heading the candidate list in the community of Lom in the Most area for the OMMO - Voice for the
Citizen group, which won one seat with 7.5 % of the vote last time. This year's election is not expected to seat candidate David Ištok, who is running for the
local assembly in Chomutov in 33rd place on the candidate list of PRO! Chomutov (FOR! Chomutov). 

Romani candidates for the Pirates have a chance, Romani candidate for the Greens could win in Prague 5

Seven Romani men and women have been identified by news server Romea.cz on candidate lists for the Pirates, who are currently the second-strongest party in the polls. The Pirates are, moreover, one of a very few parties that do not make anti-Romani statements but that, on the contrary, very frequently
collaborates with Romani organizations or personalities.  

If the current popularity of the Pirates is eventually reflected by local election results, then Cyril Koky may be seated on the local assembly in Kolín, Monika
Berkyová could be seated in Stříbro, Claudie Laburdová may be seated in Prague 9, or Hana Tirpáková could be seated in Kadaň. As for the Green Party, in 2014 its candidates got more than 11 % of the vote in the Prague 5 local elections, winning seven seats.

If the Greens manage to repeat that performance this year, then Romani candidate Anna Chválová, who is running in fourth place, could be seated. However,
the nationwide preference for the Green Party has long hovered between just 1 to 2 %, although in Prague they may win more votes. 

Romani candidates on the lists of extremist and populist parties

In the autumn of 2017, two Romani candidates ran for the lower house for anti-Romani, extremist entities. In this year's local election, several such
Romani men and women have also made that political choice.  

In Karviná the kick-box trainer and rapper Lucrecius Kišš, aka Lucrecius Chang, is running 10th on the list for the anti-Romani, populist, xenophobic "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement  (SPD Tomia Okamury). In Litoměřice, the SPD list has Romani candidate Stanislav Golda in 10th place.

In Krupka, the Romani candidate running for the SPD is Rozálie Demetrová, a professional cook who is running in 20th place. In Ústí nad Labem the Romani businessman Tibor Gaži is running in sixth place on the candidate list of the Ústecký Citizens' Forum (Ústecký fórum občanů - UFO) for the municipal department of Ústí nad Labem-město.

Gaži is also running for that same movement in 14th place on its candidate list for Ústí nad Labem City Hall. He made an appearance at the July session of the city council as a representative of Romani residents who signed a petition against the idea of the city collaborating with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion.   
 
UFO at the time was expressing its opposition to the city collaborating with the Agency. As for other populist movements, news server Romea.cz has found several surnames that are usually considered Romani on the candidate list of the "Decent People" (Slušní lidé) group in Brno

We have not managed to verify whether these people are actually Romani, so we have not listed them in our statistics on Romani candidates. The founders of the "Decent People" movement have extremist or even neo-Nazi pasts.  

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Komunální, Volby, demokracie, Romani candidates



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