Czech regional elections. Romani candidate for the Greens/Pirates, Karel Karika: No more socially excluded localities
On Friday, 7 October and Saturday, 8 October, citizens of the Czech Republic will vote for regional councilors and in some regions also for the one-third of the Czech Senate whose electoral terms are expiring. Political parties have also sent several candidates to the regional elections who are of Romani nationality.
This year, political movements and parties have nominated a total of 11 880 candidates for the post of regional councilor, 576 more than in the 2012 elections. News server Romea.cz estimates that as many as 40 Romani people are running for the regional councils this year, and we have reached out to some of them with a request for an interview.
Karel Karika, candidate for the coalition of the Green Party and the Pirates
The third Romani candidate whom we have interviewed is running for regional assembly member in the Ústecký Region. Karel Karika, the 56-year-old vice-mayor of the central municipal department in Ústí nad Labem, is running for the Green Party together with the Pirates.
Since the end of the 1980s, Karika has been actively involved in public affairs in Ústí nad Labem and in many local civic activities. He is a member of the Committee for National Minorities of the Ústecký Regional Assembly, representing the JsmePRO!kraj ("We're FOR! the Region") movement, is in his fourth year as an opposition member of the audit committee at the office of the municipal department, and is a co-founder of the "Ústí against Gambling Initiative" (Iniciativa Ústí proti hazardu) and the "We Don't Want Neo-Nazis in Ústí" initiative.
Q: Do you have the feeling that not many Romani citizens vote?
A: Certainly. Romani people believe that nothing will change and that their votes aren't worth anything, which isn't true. If we're going to talk about excluded localities where Romani people live, various political parties go pay those voters to cast ballots for them. That's been going on around the entire country for at least 15 years. Those voters either will not admit or absolutely do not comprehend that they could change many things with their votes if they would choose the correct people. They should give their vote to the party with which they actually sympathize, not sell it to just anybody, and then many things in their lives could change.
Q: Why have you decided to run for the Green Party/Pirates? What are you all focused on?
A: I have been in the Green Party since 2006 and the connection with the Pirates seemed logical to me, because we have the same electoral program at the regional level. During my time in the Green Party I have been most involved with social issues. Through the Greens, in the past, I established the groups "We Don't Want Neo-Nazis", "Stop Injustice" and "Stop Racism". I have consistently been interested in solutions for the excluded localities, because I am aware that we can no longer give any more room for such localities to increase in our region. I am involved with the Předlice neighborhood, which after Matiční Street is the most infamous excluded locality in the country. Currently we have achieved getting repairs made to buildings that are in disrepair, thanks to their having finally being sold to an owner with whom we can now negotiate.
Q: Do you believe Romani people who are candidates in the bigger parties have an advantage?
A: Under no circumstances do they have an advantage, I'd say rather the contrary. In the mainstream parties it's difficult for Romani people. I don't believe such candidates are actually motivated to change something to benefit Romani people, rather, they just have the intention of fitting in and sharing in the victory. In a small party, it's all on you. What's important is that there be a Romani member in each assembly, because the experience of a Romani person is non-transferable, nobody else can assess how Romani people think like a Romani community member can.
Q: If your party succeeds, who would you go into a coalition government with?
A: With parties that advocate opinions similar to ours. A clear partner for us would be the JsmePRO! Kraj party, or TOP 09.
Q: What is the first thing you would push for if you were to become an assembly member?
A: I would not allow any more socially excluded localities to be created. I support any instruments that will facilitate social inclusion. I would push for the thorough punishment of crime, the preservation of schools in smaller towns, access to preschool education, mainstream school education that is not just for children, and for bolstering the competences of the inhabitants of those localities in their areas of weakness. It's also important to run bus and railway lines, as well as tourism lines, or to create bicycle lanes on the roads, we don't have those at all yet.
Q: How many employees does the municipality have who work for community services? In what respect do you believe such jobs are essential?
A: Currently we have 75 employees performing community service work. I would increase that to 150, but unfortunately our current budget won't allow it. For the long-term unemployed, this type of work is important. In the first place it's about habits, the regime of getting up regularly. In the second place, this work for the town is transferable to other scenarios. After performing community service, one is well-prepared for employment that will be meaningful and where one will make a living. It's being demonstrated that community service jobs are an instrument for helping people get out of the habit of doing nothing.
Q: How is the Ústecký Region managing to reduce the number of gambling establishments right now?A: That problem has been addressed since 2014. The Ústí against Gambling Initiative began - at that time, two friends and I announced a referendum on gambling establishments where the citizens themselves could decide which of the 109 gambling establishments with slot machines in them could remain here and which ones should be closed. Unfortunately, only 22 % of the electorate participated in the referendum, which was unfortunately too few people, because the necessary minimum turnout for a referendum result to be considered valid is 34 %. Even though more than 90 % of those who did vote expressed a preference for "zero tolerance" of gambling, we did not manage to push through our proposed ordinance to ban gambling city-wide at the city council. We were also attempting to ban slot machines within 200 meters of bus and railway stations, churches, health care facilities, public administration offices and schools, but we haven't pushed that through yet either.
Q: What is your opinion of the refugee crisis?
A: Those people who are actually fleeing war should be aided by Europe. As far as economic migrants go, we should create a restraint system and aid them in their home countries. For example, we could create a camp on the territory of Egypt, etc.
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