Czech Pirate Party chair on Romani candidates: We're not addressing a "Romani issue", we're addressing all of society together with Romani people
The Pirate Party in the Czech Republic, which according to current polls is the second-strongest party in the country, has put Romani candidate Karel Karika at the head of their candidate list in the Ústecký Region and is running Romani candidate Cyril Koky in the Kolín precinct for Senate. In Czech politics, this is an absolutely unique situation that has no historical equivalent, and party chair Ivan Bartoš says it is as a consequence of the candidates' long-term work in that region.
The membership base of the Pirate Party decides who will run and in what order on the list by primary election. "To be elected to the list, including to the lead post, the highest one, the assumption is these people are known, that long-term collaboration works there. These people vote for each other, because they know each other from their daily work. That is the example of Cyril and Karel in this region ... [this] is basically appreciation for their work," the party chair said in an interview for ROMEA TV.
According to Bartoš, it is important to emphasize that Romani people are not on the candidate lists to address "the Romani issue", but that the issue of society is being addressed together with Romani people. "I'm glad when I encounter young people from the Romani community ... They don't look at politics as a way to aid the Romani minority or any other specific community, but they see it as a prospect for how to aid this society as a whole, which logically improves the quality of life for all, including the Romani minority, which objectively, in the Czech Republic, is to a certain degree worse off than the majority society in that respect," he told ROMEA TV.
"Problems in the social arena, for example, with poverty or the debt trap, do not just affect minorities, but are a problem of the entire society. Almost 40 % of people here live either in poverty, or are in danger of it, or on the edge of that risk, which is an awfully big number," Bartoš said.
Karel Karika is a local assembly member in Ústí nad Labem and vice-mayor there who is now the lead candidate for the Pirates and will run for the post of Governor of the Ústecký Region. No politician from the Romani community has ever run for Governor on the ticket of the second most powerful party in the country.
Similarly, no other party with such a track record has ever fielded a candidate from the Romani community for the Senate, which is what Cyril Koky, currently the officer for the area of national minorities at the Central Bohemian Regional Authoriy, will do in Kolín. Some past Romani candidates have been, in the year 2010, Lucie Horváthová, who led the candidate list in the Pardubice Region for elections to the lower house, but the Green Party for whom she was running did not fare well in those elections.
The Pirate decision is best compared to the successful parliamentary candidacy of Romani community member Monika Horáková (today Monika Mihaličková) in 1998. Back then she ran in second place on the candidate list in Prague for the now-defunct Freedom Union (Unie Svobody) and remains the only Romani woman ever seated in the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.
Romani candidates Petr Jano and Petr Kováč ran for Senate in 2018 but won just a negligible percentage of the vote. The elections to the Regional Authorities and the Senate will be held on 2 and 3 October 2020, and the runoff for the Senate will be held on 9 and 10 October 2020.
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