Czech regional and Senate elections begin amid pandemic measures, Romani candidates on the ballot
Voters in the Czech Republic begin casting ballots today for their representatives at regional level (with the exception of Prague), and one-third of the state's territory will also be deciding on who represents them in the Senate, including three precincts in the capital this time. The election is seen as the biggest survey of voter preferences ahead of the national elections to the lower house that will take place next year.
During the regional contest, voters decide who will direct development in the region for the next four years and thereby influence the accessibility of healthcare or the state of the roads. In the Senate elections, voters will determine how large of a majority the groups in the upper chamber of Parliament will hold, including the opposition, and how strong they will be when it comes to being able to correct the Government's intentions.
As news server Romea.cz has ascertained, at least seven Romani people are running in the regional contests nationwide. Romani community member Cyril Koky is running for the Pirate Party in the Senate contest as well.
The Pirates are the first party seated in Parliament in the country's history to run a Romani candidate as the leader of their list in a regional contest, Karel Karika in the Ústecký Region, which means he is their candidate for Governor. Two Romani people are also running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement of Tomio Okamura, a politician infamous for his antigypsyist, xenophobic remarks who is regularly mentioned in the Czech Republic's official reports on extremism.
Two other Romani peple are running in the Liberec Region for the "Change for the People and the Landscape" group, while Emil Voráč is running in the Karlovy Vary Region for the Green Party. Polling places traditionally open at 14:00 and the last voters will be allowed to cast their ballots today before the polls close at 22:00.
Others will have a chance tomorrow (Saturday) to vote between 8:00 and 14:00. A total of 3 672 voters in quarantine because of COVID-19 have already cast their ballots, taking advantage Wednesday of the opportunity to vote from their cars at drive-in polls.
On Thursday the clients of retirement homes that have been shut because of the pandemic also cast their ballots. Voters must show valid photographic idenitification (the state-issued personal identity card or a passport) so election commissioners can verify their identities and right to vote.
Voters must wear face masks while inside the polling places. The Czech Interior Ministry has distributed single-use masks to polling places that will be available for citizens who forget to bring a mask.
"If a voter refuses to wear a face mask, the election commission cannot prevent the voter from casting a ballot. However, by voting without a face mask, the voter will be violating the Health Ministry's measures for public safety, which is a misdemeanor, and that will have legal repercussions," said Deputy Interior Minister Petr Mlsna.
"Above all, however, such a voter is mostly endangering the members of the election commission," Mlsna warned. The members of the election commissions will also have their mouths and noses covered the entire time and will also work in gloves, while indications of how voters can maintain a safe distance from others will be visually marked on the floor of each polling place.
HOW TO CAST YOUR VOTE
People casting ballots in the regional contests can support four candidates, at the most, on the list of their preferred party by circling the number in front of their names. A candidate just has to receive 5 % of the preferential votes to be seated on the Regional Assembly.
Before placing their ballot in the box, voters must seal it in the envelope provided by the election commission. As for the Senate contest, voters must cast that ballot separately, in a separate envelope provided by the election commission.
The Senate ballot with the name of the preferred candidate does not require the voter to add anything else to it. People voting in both contests should take care not to confuse the regional and Senate envelopes because if they do so, their votes will be invalidated.
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