Czech regional elections: 29th-place Romani candidate says collections proceedings need to be consolidated
News server Romea.cz is presenting interviews with some of the Romani candidates in this year's regional elections (see previous interviews here, here and here). The following interview is with Cyril Koky of Frýdek-Místek, who is running for the Pirate Party.
The project designer in the energy industry who has recently become an entrepreneur is running in 29th place on the Pirates' candidate list in the Moravian-Silesian Region. In his view, Romani people are most anxious about access to employment, access to housing, and how to deal with collections proceedings.
"Housing is an enormous subject, recently the residential hotels on Palkovická and F. Čejky Streets were closed. The town has introduced housing benefit-free zones for new arrivals. However, those interventions will never resolve the housing problem, we need projects like Housing First to address the housing shortage," he told news server Romea.cz.
As far as collections proceedings go, according to Koky it would be ideal for debtors to deal with just a single collections agent in each region. "That would reduce costs for debtors who owe to multiple creditors," he said.
Q: What do you anticipate will happen during the autumn regional elections?
A: My personal ambitions are not high, I'm in 29th place on the candidate list, after all. I agreed to run mainly to support the Pirate Party and its program, with which I fully identify. Maybe if somebody votes for me in particular it could aid the party as such. However, I also accepted their offer of a candidacy so that somebody Romani would appear on a political party's list, because that is the only way this society will be able to function without prejudices and stereotypes. By doing this, I am proposing to society that Romani people, too, can be engaged in politics, can be a benefit to society, and can change its view of Romani people. This could be a tool for getting Romani people to vote as well.
Q: Why should voters in your region choose the Pirate Party in particular?
A: We want everything to be transparent. We want to make all publicly-funded grants, subsidies and tenders transparent. We are striving for the budgets of municipalities and all municipally-funded organizations to publicly accessible, which is how things should customarily function in politics. In addition, we will advocate for reform of the welfare benefits system, for a housing policy based on a unifying concept, and for a social housing law. In this region there is a need to beef up facilitation, mediation and social services provision in the field.
Q: What chance do you believe the Pirates have in the regional elections?
A: I believe Michaela Davidová and Leonard Varga have a chance of success. We already have some Pirates on the Regional Assembly and I think we will defend our seats there this year.
Q: Will your campaign manage to explain to voters the importance of the regional elections?
A: Overall we are succeeding with that. A couple of days ago the party chair, Ivan Bartoš, came to Frýdek-Místek to support our candidates. We are distributing the Pirate News (Pirátské listy), a contact campaign is underway, and because we don't support "advertising smog", we are communicating with voters online. However, we are also encountering the fact that the public basically doesn't know what kind of powers the Regional Authority has and what their vote can influence. Many people don't even know how to vote at all, they ask us how to go about choosing their preferred candidates on the ballot.
Q: What subjects are of most interest to Romani voters during the campaign?
A: Employment, housing and collections proceedings. Those are probably the three subjects most frequently mentioned by Romani voters. However, there are problems that all people are addressing here irrespective of their ethnicity. Housing is an enormous subject, recently the residential hotels on Palkovická and F. Čejky Streets were closed. The town has introduced housing benefit-free zones for new arrivals. However, those interventions will never resolve the housing problem, we need projects like Housing First to address the housing shortage. With respect to collections proceedings, Lukáš Kolařík has been intensively dealing with that topic for several years in the lower house. It would be ideal if each debtor were to have just one collections agent to deal with in the region. That would reduce costs for debtors who owe to multiple creditors. The costs of enforcing the collections proceedings would be paid to just one agent in charge of all the proceedings for that debtor.
Q: Voter turnout for the regional elections is about 35 %, or roughly half of the turnout for the national elections to the lower house of Parliament. Do you believe there is any way to increase regional contest turnout, and not just among Romani voters?
A: People are generally disgusted by politics and by unfulfilled promises. There are problems with vote-buying during every election, the parties mostly buy the support of the socially disadvantaged for a couple of crowns. Most Romani people feel their vote has no value, so they don't even cast a ballot. You know, it's basically all the same whom you vote for, the main thing should be to freely participate, because that's the only way to change anything. If people never vote, then they will have nothing to do but curse when they are dissatisfied with politics. They have to realize they're doing it for their children. I'm aware of this, I don't want my children to one day live in a society that segregates Romani people away from the majority society. We should be engaged in dialogue. People should join forces, not separate themselves from one another. As a society we must realize that the problems the Romani people suffer are also the majority society's problems. For that reason, in the future I want to concentrate on local elections, because I also want there to be Romani participation in municipal decision-making. I would like to see more Romani firefighters, police officers and local assembly members, because that is the only way we can change the perception of Roma. One or two Romani members of the local assembly will get lost, but if there are more of us there, we will be able to better respond to events and to advocate for changes that lead to improvement.
Q: Voter participation during the autumn elections can be influenced by anything, and this year there is the new factor of the pandemic. Are you concerned about its possible impact on voter turnout?
A: If the Government continues its restrictions, then certainly, yes. The campaign also had to adapt to the pandemic, it hasn't been the campaign we first planned. However, I believe our base is strong enough for our voters to make it to the polls despite the pandemic.
Q: Do you have any idea whom you would choose as your coalition partners if you win?
A: Certainly we would go into coalition with STAN (Mayors and Independents), but the final decision will be made by our leaders. We would never go into coalition with "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD). If we end up in opposition, we will advocate for the Pirates to chair the Audit Committee.
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