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Czech Republic: Romani woman films vote-buying in Bílina

Prague, 13.10.2014 16:33, (ROMEA)
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  cs.wikipedia, Ludek
A voting urn in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: cs.wikipedia, Ludek

Police are investigating a case of alleged vote-buying in the town of Bílina (Teplice district). Alena Bartošová, spokesperson for the Regional Police, told the Czech News Agency the incident was reported to police on Saturday.  

Anti-corruption initiatives recorded the attempted manipulation of the election in Bílina. Michal Voda of the "Our Politicians" (Naši politici) initiative told the Czech News Agency that the group used local helpers.

Activists in Kadaň (Chomutov district) consider manipulation of the election there to have been proven as well. According to Pavel Horák of the Renewal (Oživení) organization, between CZK 600 and 750 was paid per vote in the town.  

Detectives are also investigating possible vote-buying, primarily among socially vulnerable voters, in Chomutov, Litvínov (Most district) and Lovosice (Litoměřice district). Horák believes the vote-buying in Kadaň was organized by a local entrepreneur.  

"Taxi drivers transported mostly Romani people to the polls and gave them money directly," he told the Czech News Agency, adding that activists filmed several interactions using a hidden camera and spoke with local Roma about the transactions. Bartošová said on Saturday that police had not yet received information about vote-buying in Kadaň.

"For the time being we have not received any information, no suggestions proving any possible influencing of the elections [in Kadaň]," the police spokesperson said. The local race there was won by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) with 43 % of the vote; the Kadaň town council will also seat members of ANO 2011, the communists, the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) and TOP 09.

In the town of Bílina the "Our Politicians" initiative used a local Romani woman to document the manipulation of the elections who agreed to turn on a recording device and film the completed ballots used in the vote-buying. "We used helpers, an entrepreneur paid them money for their votes. Naturally they did not cast the ballots he gave them. We have them now and we will be providing them to the police along with our other materials," Voda told the Czech News Agency.    

News server reported Saturday that the helpers were given ballots on which the candidates for the Social Democrats in Bílina had been chosen. The Czech News Agency was not able to reach Vice-Mayor Zdeněk Rendl, the ČSSD leader in Bílina, for comment Saturday.  

"We have also documented a purchased vote being actually cast," Voda said. Alleged vote-buying in Bílina had been spoken of weeks before the local elections began.

Vote-buying was also said to have taken place in the Mojžíř quarter of Ústí nad Labem and in Teplice. "We investigated that information at the scene and did not find any illegal behavior," the police spokesperson said of the Teplice and Ústí allegations.  

Socially vulnerable people in Bílina allegedly received offers of several hundred Czech crowns per vote. The Czech News Agency reports that voters at the Janov housing estate in the town of Litvínov were offered up to CZK 500.

A Roma party took place in a local club in Litvínov on Friday evening where the alleged vote-buying was supposed to be agreed. Police officers patrolled the area around the club and randomly checked those who attended the event.  

"The beverages and food were free. We asked who organized it and if we needed to contribute any money. They said we didn't. We didn't see any vote-buying there," a participant told the Czech News Agency.

In Chomutov police were contacted by an initiative called "We Don't Want to live in Palermo" (Nechceme žít v Palermu) and by the FOR! CHOMUTOV (PRO! CHOMUTOV movement) about vote-buying. The Písečná housing estate there was said to be the location.

Activists there report that dozens of people at the housing estate were first given refreshments and then pre-completed ballots before being taken to the polls by local security guards in cars. The price per vote was said to have been between CZK 200 and 400, but none of the activists actually saw one of the pre-completed ballots.  

According to the leader of the FOR! CHOMUTOV initiative, the socially vulnerable people were told to vote for one of its cadidates, David Ištok. "The movement FOR! CHOMUTOV has nothing to do with this vote-buying, our candidate list and representatives of the We Don't Want to Live in Palermo Initiative have already filed a criminal report about obstruction of the election," said Daniel Černý, the leading candidate on the FOR! CHOMUTOV list, who said Ištok will also be filing a criminal report of slander.  

In Lovosice, detectives have been investigating alleged vote-buying since last Wednesday in the neighborhood of a residential hotel on Nádražní Street and have been gradually calling in witnesses to make statements. Increased interest in ballots was noted at the town hall among tenants of the residential hotel with permanent residency in Lovosice.

Police are also investigating a criminal report of obstructing the preparation and course of the elections in the town of Nejdek (Karlovy Vary district). Kateřina Krejčí, spokesperson for the Regional Police there, informed the Czech News Agency of the investigation Saturday.

The Czech News Agency reported that the incident concerned alleged vote-buying in Nejdek. "We received a criminal report and we are now intensively investigating the entire matter. Witnesses are being interrogated," Krejčí told the press agency.

Information about alleged vote-buying in Nejdek turned up on social networking sites as well. According to the Facebook page of the "We Want Change in Nejdek" (Chceme změny v Nejdku) group, eyewitnesses confirmed vote-buying during the elections this past weekend and have also identified the vehicle involved in the effort; posts to that page indicate that the vote-buying there is linked to a 20-year municipal contract for the collection and disposal of waste.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Komunální, Komunální volby 2014, Volby 2014, volební lístky, vote-buying


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