Czech mayor allegedly bribed Romani voters with free beer and rap tickets
Beer, cola and food for free as well as CZK 300 cash in exchange for casting a vote for a particular candidate. Today the Regional Court in Brno was scheduled to begin reviewing a case of alleged bribery during the local elections in Brno-sever municipality.
News server Lidovky.cz has published audio recordings online that constitute the key evidence that votes were bought there. Participation in the municipal elections, for some voters, revolved around being given a blue "VIP" wristband so they could access a special event.
The offer was discussed primarily among members of the local Romani community. "If he went to vote he'd get [a wristband] for free," a resident explains on the recordings.
The words were captured on a hidden dictaphone wielded by Janusz Konieczny of the Anticorruption Endowment (Nadační fond proti korupci) to document suspicions of vote-buying in the Brno area. "They either received a wristband so they could attend a party including beverages and food free of charge in exchange for their vote, or they were directly paid in cash for their votes," he summarized.
Some voters said they were paid CZK 300, others as much as CZK 1 000 to cast particular ballots. Lidovky.cz has now released online the unedited audio recordings that provide the clearest evidence of vote-buying.
"I spent the whole day in Brno," Koniezcny said. "I interviewed dozens of Romani people."
It is evident from the recordings that the people were not being rewarded just for voting, but for casting the particular ballots they were given. "If they voted for the mayor they would get a wristband as an invitation to the party, that's normal, right?" one of the voters interviewed said.
Other local residents mentioned that it was necessary to vote for the mayor in order to be rewarded. The candidate in question was Rostislav Hakl (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who rejects any accusations of involvement in vote-buying and considers the allegations part of the political contest.
"I consider this a provocation. All of my political rivals know that I act together with the Romani community, that their citizens wanted to vote for me. I reject any accusations of vote-buying - if that actually happened, it's just part of this political fight. No one from the ČSSD gave anyone anything," Hakl said previously.
Tickets allegedly distributed by local mafioso
for free at which the famous rapper Rytmus was supposed to perform. It is not yet clear who was actually behind the vote-buying.
"It's a big shot, a local mafioso," one voter says evasively in a recorded interview. Another interviewee says that an "Olah Rom" gave him an envelope with the completed ballot inside.
The Anticorruption Endowment has filed a criminal report about the bribery against an unidentified perpetrator and local police have been investigating who in particular bribed the Romani community for their votes in the north of Brno. Today's trial was slated to address a complaint about the elections filed by local members of the Christian Democrats, who collaborated with the Anticorruption Endowment and gathered several testimonies of their own about the trafficking in votes.
The Regional Court in Brno could dismiss the complaint. It could also order a recount or, if the case should be one of extreme corruption, it could order that the elections be repeated.
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