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Czech local elections see attempts to buy votes

Bílina/Český Těšín, 19.9.2014 19:35, (ROMEA)
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  cs.wikipedia, Ludek
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: cs.wikipedia, Ludek

The Mf DNES daily in the Czech Republic reports that some politicians are doing their best to buy votes in the upcoming municipal elections. The paper's first report today was about the town of Český Těšín.

Český Těšín: CZK 200 to 500 per vote

The first insinuation of vote-buying turned up on Facebook, and the vice-mayor has filed a criminal report over it. "David, will you be voting? I offer you CZK 200 for your vote," a Facebook user posted.

The name of the user who posted that message to Facebook was blacked out. Another Facebook user then posted to the discussion that she would offer CZK 500 per vote.

"On Monday I filed a criminal report against an unidentified perpetrator with the state prosecutor in Karviná about this," Vice-Mayor Petr Procházka (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) said. "The organizers of illegal vote-buying have a list of voters from the last elections who were then and probably will now be open to selling their votes," said Janusz Konieczny of the Foundation against Corruption (Nadačního fondu proti korupci - NFPK), which is monitoring the local elections in Český Těšín with the Oživení (Renewal) association.

The previous elections in Český Těšín had to be repeated. The courts found that votes there had been bought by the "SOS pro Český Těšín" (SOS for Český Těšín) association.

Bílina: We'll give you CZK 300 per vote

The information is also spreading in Bílina (Teplice district) three weeks prior to the municipal elections that a political party there is bribing voters. Allegedly they are offering CZK 300 per vote.  

"It happened last week. A local Romani boss stopped me on the square and asked if I wouldn't like CZK 300 for my vote. I told him I would think about it, he took my phone number and said he would contact me by the end of the month," one man told Mf DNES.

"They made me the same offer," another man said who showed the paper his Facebook correspondence with a woman offering to buy votes as follows:  "Hi, the municipal elections are coming up and they're offering you CZK 300 to vote for whoever they say. They'll bring the money to you at home, I'm counting on it at the end of September, start of October, and don't worry, they give you the money first, before you go vote. They give you a completed ballot and you just put it in the urn."

In the message the woman even suggests that the man find others who want such money. "If you and your friends are interested, send me their names and addresses," she writes.

According to the first witness, the vote was being bought for the BSD (Bílinské sociální demokraty - Bílina Social Democrats), a splinter group from the ČSSD that now governs the town together with the Independents and three unaffiliated politicians. The BSD rejects the allegations.  

"That is intentional defamation by our political competitors who are basing their campaign on spreading lies. The BSD has four years of honest work behind it of the sort that most of the other parties running can't present, and that is why they are doing their best to tarnish our reputation with these untrue allegations," Vice-Mayor Zdeněk Rendl (BSD) said.  

The politicians are allegedly using intermediaries. "The intermediaries reach out to Romani leaders, who are tasked with finding voters willing to be paid for their votes. They recruited them at the Rytmus concert at the summer amphitehater and at a Romani party in the Fontana House of Culture," claims Lucie Ječmenová, head of the B10 political party.    

Mf DNES reports on the testimonies of other locals there who received such offers. NGOs fighting corruption such as the NFPK, Our Politicians (Naši politici), Oživení (Renewal) and Transparency International (TI) are taking a strong interest in the runup to the elections in Bílina.  

"We are evaluating information from troubled localities in northern Bohemia and Moravia, and just before the elections we will specify the places we will monitor," said Petr Leyer of TI. Bribing voters is not new to northern Bohemia; the town of Krupka (Teplice district) was without a town council for one year because of vote-buying in the last elections.

Mf DNES, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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