Czech Police propose prosecution of vote-buying at Romani event
The Czech Police have completed their investigation of alleged vote-buying during last fall's municipal elections in Chomutov. Police have proposed the prosecution of a 45-year-old local man for interfering with the preparations for and course of an election.
Regional Police spokesperson Alena Bartošová informed the Czech News Agency of the recommendations yesterday. The elections are repeating today in Chomutov because vote-buying interfered with the original result.
The regional court ordered the elections be repeated. "We have completed our investigation and sent the files to the state prosecutor with a motion to prosecute," Bartošová told the Czech News Agency yesterday.
Detectives say the man promised several people financial remuneration in exchange for casting ballots and gave them an envelope with pre-completed ballots and CZK 200. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
The vote-buying is alleged to have taken place at the Písečná housing estate in Chomutov during a Romani community party. Activists say the dozens of people who attended the event first received refreshments, then a completed ballot to cast, and were driven to the polls by local security guards.
The court ordered the local elections repeated because of the vote-buying. The original elections were overturned after the court reviewed 79 ballots completed in absolutely identical fashion that were cast for several Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) candidates in 11 of 40 precincts.
The court ruled that the electoral outcome was influenced to such an extent that the vote was invalid. "While the invalidation of those ballots would not have influenced the distribution of seats between the various parties, their inclusion influenced which specific ČSSD candidates took office," Regional Court spokesperson Marcela Trejbalová told the Czech News Agency previously.
The repeat local elections are taking place today. Polls will be open from 7:00 to 22:00.
According to non-governmental organizations, today's elections will also involve vote-buying. The Anti-Corruption Endowment, in collaboration with the "We Don't Want to Live in Palermo" initiative, claims it has recorded evidence of the activities of persons who have once again offered votes to politicians in exchange for bribes.
The activists claim that David Ištok, a candidate with the "PRO Chomutov" (FOR Chomutov) political party, was contacted by two people offering to sell him 25 votes. "Those people were just facilitating the offer. The person behind this activity is selling the votes of between 500 and 600 voters," the NGOs said previously.
The civic groups claim that the person buying the votes is exploiting the poverty of citizens living in socially excluded localities of Chomutov and has turned the sale of votes into an illegal business. Marie Povková, spokesperson for the Chomutov Police, said they are already investigating a new criminal report of suspicion of felony interference with the preparations and course of an election or referendum.
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