Czech Republic: No Romani candidates seated, populist Dawn (Úsvit) gets 7 % of the vote
The elections to the Czech lower house have once again been won by the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) by the smallest of margins, just as they were three years ago. This year the second-place finish went to the ANO 2011 party instead of the Civic Democrats (ODS), who have now lost almost four-fifths of their MPs.
The lower house will now feature the Christian Democrats, the communists, TOP 09 and the Dawn of Direct Democracy (Úsvit přímé demokracie) party. A total of seven parties were elected compared to five previously.
Both of the parties linked to President Zeman, SPOZ and the Head's Up! Bloc, failed to pass the 5 % threshold. The right-wing extremist DSSS did not even win 1 % of the vote.
Jarmila Balážová, chair of the ROMEA association, is surprised by the elections in several respects. "ČSSD won, but the result for this party, which has been in opposition, is lower than predicted and it will be complicated for them to form a government. I did anticipate the ANO movement would win big. In the end they have become the second-strongest party and will have to declare their political accountability, which is more complicated than just criticizing others. It is interesting to see what a broad spectrum of voters they reached out to and I think it shows that the Czech electorate does not make its decisions by either left-wing or right-wing criteria, but rather somewhere in the center," she told news server Romea.cz.
František Kostlán, a reporter with news server Romea.cz, believes the elections did not turn out well overall. "We are witnessing a draw, neither the left nor the right will be able to put a proper government together. Even if they do, there will always be the threat of collapse and more early elections. As far as stability is concerned, these elections did not bring about any improvement. The second most powerful party is the more or less populist party ANO, which is now saying it doesn't want to join any government. It's up to that party how to behave now. It's a group without ideas, without a program. It's not sure what direction it will head. there was a slogan I read somewhere: It seems people don't even need to leave the Czech Republic for there to be a brain drain. That's the result of these elections," he said.
According to David Beňák, who ran in Prague in the ninth-place slot on the ČSSD list, it will be very complicated for the party to put a functioning government together. "The voters have dealt a very complex hand. I am not pleased that the ČSSD did not get as many votes as we predicted. It will be very difficult to put together a government and people will most probably be dissatisfied, because there will have to be a lot of backing down and compromises in order to govern. That will not benefit the Czech Republic," he told news server Romea.cz.
Journalist Patrik Banga is disappointed with the election results. "The communists, a populist using racist rhetoric, and a business enterprise made it into parliament. What else is there to add? The nation now has what it chose and has evidently lost its memory. The world is ending up in that part of the body where the backside comes to an end," he told news server Romea.cz
No Romani candidates seated
Of the Romani people who ran, the greatest success was enjoyed by Beňák, who won 2 275 preferential votes. "Given the brief amount of time available prior to the elections, I see my result as a very good one and I thank the voters very much for every single vote. This is definitely a show of trust," he told news server Romea.cz.
František Kostlán regrets the ČSSD did not win enough votes to seat Beňák. "In Prague he had a chance, but thanks to the lower number of votes overall, he ultimately will not be seated in the lower house. I am sorry the Green Party did not get into parliament and that some of the other Romani candidates did not get in with it. This is a big negative, it does not say anything good about the state of our society," he said.
Jarmila Balážová says it was obvious that none of the Romani candidates would be seated given their placement on the candidate lists. The Romani Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana - RDS), which ran only in two regions, won a mere 609 votes, or 0.01 % of the electorate.
"This has unequivocally demonstrated that an independent Romani party has no chance and that what is worthwhile is to engage with bigger parties. However, it is important that 20 Romani people ran at all, and I believe that for David Beňák of the ČSSD or for the Romani people on the Green Party candidate lists this was a success. They can build on their work in these parties going forward and eventually run for the European Parliament and municipal governments," Balážová said.
Patrik Banga does not consider the RDS gains to be a success either. "However, I at least appreciate their effort. I am much happier that the Green Party, for whom Romani candidates also ran, won 3.19 % of the vote. A record number of 20 Romani candidates is super, this must continue," he said.
Beňák believes it is sad no Romani people will be in parliament now. "The optics seemed more hopeful. Now there is nothing left to but reflect on how to do it better, how best to reach the voters. We must show that as Romani people we have what it takes to get into parliament. It's definitely super that so many people from the Equal Opportunities Party managed to get places on the Green Party candidate lists. Now, however, it is up to the SRP chair to evaluate the results and whether that was a good idea," he told news server Romea.cz.
Populist success, extremist debacle
Czech Senator Tomio Okamura's populist Dawn of Direct Democracy (Úsvit přímé demokracie) party made it into the lower house with not quite 7 % of the vote and will have 14 MPs there. The racist, right-wing extremist DSSS suffered a significant failure, winning only 0.86 % of the vote and losing almost 20 000 votes compared to their lower house results in 2010.
"The success of Úsvit is a very unpleasant surprise for me. I believed until the last moment that a miracle would happen and they would not win 5 % of the vote," Balážová told news server Romea.cz.
Kostlán is similarly disturbed by the party's success. "I consider it ominous that 7 % of the vote went to Tomio Okamura's fascistic party. It seems this anti-Romani, fascistic wave has affected society to a much deeper degree than it seemed at first," he said.
Beňák is also disappointed at the number of votes cases for Úsvit. "That's not good. Úsvit takes a very simplified approach to solving various problems. On the other hand, the extremist DSSS suffered a great failure, which evidently correlates with Úsvit's success in particular. After the activities the DSSS implemented in the streets and at demonstrations, they became unacceptable. Úsvit pretends to be different, but in my view its program is in accordance with the DSSS program along several parameters. The failure of the DSSS, however, is brilliant news," he said.
According to Balážová, Úsvit's success is very dangerous. "The populist remarks by the party leader, remarks against Romani people, degrading remarks about women - we'll see how the party and its chair conduct themselves in Parliament, whether they change their rhetoric or continue to bank on simple slogans that produce quick political points but not civilized, concrete solutions," she told news server Romea.cz.
Journalist Banga also believes Okamura's party chose populist tactics. "Not quite 7 % of voters responded, which is terrible, but I expected an even worse result," he said.
Balážová never expected any dramatic numbers for the DSSS. "Even though the DSSS has done its best to get publicity at various anti-Romani demonstrations, its style of leadership and its supporters from the neo-Nazi ranks are at a minimum not welcome in the parliamentary elections, and I appreciate that," she said.
Banga said the DSSS is a mini-party that makes a lot of noise without any support. "Thank God the elections have proven this," he said. "They won't be getting any money."
František Kostlán attributes the failure of the DSSS to the party's alliance with violent neo-Nazis. "Tomio Okamura is another reason," he said. "Unlike [DSSS chair] Vandas, he managed to reach out to many more people."
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