Czech Republic: RomanoNet launches campaign to get out the Romani vote - "ME DŽAV! A so tu?"
RomanoNet, an organization based in the Czech Republic, launched a campaign at the end of August called ME DŽAV! A so tu? ("I'M GOING! Are you?"). The aim is to activate Romani voters and motivate them to participate in the local elections this coming weekend.
"Are you able to figure out the political programs, find your favorite candidates and also vote responsibly? That is a difficult task even for seasoned voters, to say nothing of those who are going to the polls in local elections for the very first time. There are many such voters among the target group for this campaign, either because they have previously ignored elections, never knew about them, or were conned by the promises and threats made by those who have been and still are buying their votes. Exactly for that reason we launched this campaign at the end of August called ME DŽAV! A so tu?, which is mean to awaken the interest of Romani voters in politics and raise awareness of the fact that it is local politics in particular that has a basic impact on their everyday lives," says Michal Miko, director of RomanoNet.
The campaign is taking place intensively through online social networks, especially on Facebook and Instagram, and RomanoNet believes it is having a significant impact on the target group. The campaign includes videos in which famous Romani celebrities express their attitudes toward voting and call on other Romani people to turn out.
Some of the videos have been viewed as many as 50 000 times and shared in the hundreds. Articles are also being published about civically active Romani candidates on news server www.romea.cz as part of the campaign.
One week before the elections an instruction video was released explaining to Romani voters how the local elections work. At the same time, fliers are being distributed in many excluded localities informing Romani voters that local elections are happening on 5 and 6 October and that they can find more details on the website www.medzavasotu.cz.
In addition to increasing the participation of Romani voters in local elections, RomanoNet is also monitoring vote-buying in selected excluded localities around the Czech Republic. The organization has patrols underway who know what to do should this corrupt behavior take place.
"There are many political parties or groups that intentionally visit Romani voters who are socially vulnerable and, in exchange for a couple hundred crowns or some salami, these voters agree to cast ballots that are filled out by the party for them, and the vote-buyers also bring these voters to the polls. Some of them are promised that they will be remunerated after they cast the ballot, and very frequently Romani voters asked the polling place workers for that payment after voting. Our patrols are in charge of discovering this corrupt behavior and the rest will be up to the police and then the courts, which should act quickly in this regard," explains Miko.
The campaign will run through mid-October. After assessing its impact, the findings will be publicly presented at the end of the year to experts and others interested at the domestic and international levels.
RomanoNet describes itself as an umbrella organization of eight nonprofit organizations, both pro-Romani and Romani, providing a platform for advocating and negotiating changes in the way integration policy is designed in the Czech Republic so as to improve the targeting of the state tenders to finance projects on the integration of Romani people and the socially disadvantaged. The organization was involved in contributing to the recent shadow report about the state of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic, the "Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategies in the Czech Republic", published by the European Commission.
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