Czech Republic: Ultra-right convict to be tie-breaker on local council
Jindřich Svoboda, a member of the right-wing extremist DSSS party, is now also a member of the local government of Duchcov (Teplice district). Town councilors there elected Zbyněk Šimbera (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) mayor yesterday.
Stanislav Strohmeier, who represents the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), was elected vice-mayor. The local council has 21 members, with 12 votes held by a coalition of the ČSSD, DSSS and KSČM.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who heads the ČSSD, told the Czech News Agency that his party has distanced itself from the coalition governing Duchcov. This morning the national executive committee of the ČSSD called on the Ústí Regional executive committee to shut down the party's organization in Duchcov.
ČSSD won the local election in Duchcov, but only holds five council seats, as does the second-place "Chance for Duchcov" group run by the previous mayor, Jitka Bártová. The KSČM holds four seats, the DSSS-For a Safe Duchcov group holds three, the TOP 09 and NK - We Live for Duchcov group holds two, the Civic Democrats (ODS) hold one and the Duchcov-Town of Equality association holds one.
The seven-member executive council of the local government includes three representatives of ČSSD, three representatives of the KSČM and Svoboda (DSSS), who is infamous for having organized anti-Romani demonstrations in the town. Mayor Šimbera told the Czech News Agency that it was impossible to negotiate a governing coalition without a representative of the DSSS.
"There were certain objections to Ms Bártová and Ms Hapštáková [lead ODS candidate Pavlína Hapštáková], we couldn't put a government together with them, to say nothing of the fact that TOP 09 is banned from working with the communists," the mayor explained to the Czech News Agency. According to Bártová, negotiations on an alternate governing coalition broke down because of the ČSSD.
The ex-mayor says her group, "Chance for Duchcov", did its best to form a governing coalition with ČSSD, ODS and TOP 09. "We, too, offered Mr Šimbera the post of mayor, but he didn't want to work with us," she told the Czech News Agency.
Svoboda (DSSS), now a member of the local government's executive council, has a criminal record for fraud. He illegally filed insurance claims for hundreds of thousands of crowns worth of travel to Prague for medical treatment.
He then made a deal with the state prosecutor to serve three years in prison for the offense, suspended for a probationary period of five years. The Teplice District Court agreed to the arrangement.
"According to the law, a person on probation is permitted to run for elected office and to perform that office," Mayor Šimbera told the Czech News Agency. For his part, Svoboda says he made a mistake.
"Everyone messes up from time to time. I regret it, I will probably regret it for the rest of my life. I was convicted, I am serving my sentence, I am paying my debt," he told the Czech News Agency.
Communists don't mind DSSS extremists
The communists also had to address a complicated situation in Duchcov after several of their elected candidates gave up their seats, which were then taken by replacements. Vice-Mayor Strohmeier said those who gave up their seats primarily did so for personal reasons.
He considers it pragmatic to form a coalition with the DSSS. "There was no essential problem with the program. I don't have a problem with the people on the council. It seems we will be able to communicate reasonably," he said.
Anti-Romani sentiment was sparked in the town after several Romani people attacked a non-Romani married couple in mid-May last year. The assailants brutally beat up both the man and woman.
The Ústí Regional Court sentenced those involved to sentences of between one year's probation to three years in prison. The court ruled that the attack had not been racially motivated.
Right-wing radicals then convened repeated anti-Romani demonstrations in Duchcov. The most recent such demonstration there was led just this past summer by Svoboda.
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