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October 16, 2021

 

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Six Romani men and women are running in Czech elections to the lower house, one for ANO and Levice, two for the Greens, two for ultranationalist party

30.9.2021 14:12
From left to right: Marcel Ščuka (ANO), Ondřej Tancoš (SPD), Andrea Kuchtová (SPD), Anna Chválová (Green Party), Emil Voráč (Green Party) are Romani candidates running in the 2021 elections to the Czech lower house. (Collage: Romea.cz)
From left to right: Marcel Ščuka (ANO), Ondřej Tancoš (SPD), Andrea Kuchtová (SPD), Anna Chválová (Green Party), Emil Voráč (Green Party) are Romani candidates running in the 2021 elections to the Czech lower house. (Collage: Romea.cz)

At least six Romani men and women are running this year in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic; news server Romea.cz has reviewed the candidate lists for each political group published on www.volby.cz, the Czech Statistical Office's official website tracking elections, and identified the candidates who are known to be Romani there. One Romani man, Marcel Ščuka, is running for the currently-governing ANO movement, while two other Romani candidates, Anna Chválová and Emil Voráč, are running for the Green Party, and two Romani candidates are running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement of Tomio Okamura. One Romani man, Lukáš Mačo, is running for the Levice Party.

The elections will be held on 8 and 9 October. A total of 22 electoral groupings have submitted their candidate lists for the elections to the Chamber of Deputies this year. 

Just as in 2017, there is no party fielding candidates that would have the interest of any national minority as its main aim. In the past, the Roma Democratic Party (RDS) has always fielded Romani candidates, and in 2013 Romani candidates from the Equal Opportunities Party (SRP) were included on the Green Party candidate list. 

This year fewer Romani men and women are running for the Chamber of Deputies than in 2017, when a total of seven Romani candidates ran. Given the places in which the Romani candidates are running on each list, it remains unlikely a Romani candidate will be seated in the Chamber of Deputies this year. 

Anna Chválová and Emil Voráč for the Green Party

The Green Party has traditionally fielded Romani candidates and was probably the first larger majority-society party in the modern Czech Republic to offer places on its candidate list to more than one Romani candidate. For example, in 2012 the leader of the candidate list for the Green Party in the Pardubice Region was Romani candidate Lucie Horváthová.

In 2013, nine Romani candidates ran in the early elections to the lower house for the Green Party. Chválová is running for the Green Party in Prague and is in seventh place on the candidate list, which is currently the highest spot occupied by any Romani candidate.

"I am running because I want to support the Green Party and the program we are offering. In Prague 4 I am dedicated to the question of the inclusion of foreign nationals and national minorities," she told news server Romea.cz, adding that unfortunately current polls do not give the Greens much of a chance of getting into the Chamber of Deputies.

"I think I could win votes for the Green Party," she said. "The voters have the final say, so anything could happen, including 'David defeats Goliath'." 

"If we were to win at least 3 % of the vote, we could use financial support from the state during future elections. For a campaign, financing is quite important," she noted.

"Nothing actually goes forward without money," Chválová said, adding that she is taking advantage of the campaign to draw attention to the subjects that matter to her personally as well as to the party. "Those subjects include accessible, good health care, the elimination of poverty, affordable housing, human rights, and education, specifically, inclusion," Chválová said, adding that she is pleased the Green Party is, in her view, the only party giving an opportunity to women, who are also heading its candidate lists.  

In the Karlovy Vary Region, Emil Voráč, director of the public benefit corporation Khamoro, a social services provider, is running in eighth place on the Green Party candidate list, his third time running for the party, having most recently made a failed bid last year during the elections to the Regional Assembly. "I would be quite glad if the Green Party got more votes, because I'd like politics to be transformed here, and they certainly would be if the Green Party won," he said in an interview for ROMEA TV.

Voráč even considered not running this time at one point. "I didn't want to take votes away from the Pirates, who could have a chance of preventing ANO and the SPD from forming a coalition," he explained. 

"However, eventually the Green Party persuaded me with its good program, above all in the social field, so I stayed on the list," he said, adding that he believes this year's elections are the most important in which he has ever run. "Society is radicalizing, and that is above all a consequence of the anti-Roma politics of the SPD," he explained to ROMEA TV, adding that he considers the disinformation making the rounds ahead of the elections to be a big problem. 

Marcel Ščuka, 27th place on the ANO candidate list in the South Moravian Region

In the South Moravian Region, Marcel Ščuka, a Romani businessman who chairs the Central Committee of the Statewide Association of Socially Responsible Romani Associations and Entrepreneurs in the Czech Republic, is running in 27th place on the ANO movement's list. He was born in Brno, where he also studied and has gone into business.

As an entrepreneur, Ščuka has actively dedicated himself in recent years to his fellow citizens who are socially excluded and unemployed. "For more than 20 years, we Roma have not had an MP who could defend the interests of our ethnic group (nation) in the Chamber of Deputies," he told Romea.cz, adding that be believes Romani voters are aware of the importance of voting this year and will head to the polls.  

"I am prepared to help bring calm to society, and what is necessary for that is constant communication. We need to discuss the problems in society, to correctly describe them, and especially to explain them. I am also prepared to suppress these populist policies about Roma that some parties feed on and use to spread unnecessary hatred in society," he told Romea.cz.

"If I were to be seated, which is to say, I were to win the trust of the voters, then I would defend all citizens who work and raise their children conscientiously with all my strength. Each of us certainly cares about the kind of society our children and grandchildren will grow up in. We must also condemn those who cause the rest of us Roma to be labeled 'inadaptables'," added Ščuka, who believes nobody has the right to condemn somebody as a "bad neighbor" just because they have the same skin color as a different person who causes trouble.

"Everybody has to realize that from the position of an activist, it's simply not possible to get a lot of work done. That person will always be an unarmed soldier," Ščuka explained as to why he is running this year.  

SPD:  Two Romani residents of Krupka as candidates

The SPD movement is also fielding two Romani candidates, as is traditional for them. Andrea Kuchtová, a Romani businesswoman from Krupka, is in 16th place on the list for the Ústecký Region.   

Kuchtová is also the vice-chair of the local SPD cell in Krupka. Ondřej Tancoš, a guidance counselor at an orphanage in Krupka, is also running in that same region for the SPD. 

Tancoš is in 22nd place on the candidate list. The SPD movement is regularly featured in Interior Ministry reports mapping extermism and hate speech.

SPD boss Okamura has long rejected accusations of his movement being extremist or racist, and in his view, the proof of that is exactly these two Romani members who have been regularly fielded as candidates, among other things. However, Okamura does attack the Romani minority quite often, for example, by casting doubt on whether Romani people really suffered when they were imprisoned in the WWII-era concentration camp in Lety u Písku, and in one video he said that one of the biggest security risks for the Czech Republic would be the Romani population's rapid growth. 

Roma Democratic Party not fielding candidates

As in 2017, the RDS will not be fielding candidates this year for the lower house. In recent years, the party has grappled with the problems that arose when it did not submit its annual financial reports for 2017 and 2018. 

In November 2020, the Interior Ministry proposed the Government file a motion with the Supreme Administrative Court to suspend the activity of the RDS. The party most recently fielded candidates in the European Parliament elections in 2019, winning 0.06 % of the vote.

In absolute numbers, that meant 1 651 voters cast ballots for the RDS. When they fielded candidates for the lower house elections in 2013, they won just 609 votes (0.01 %). 

Romani people have long been unrepresented in national politics

In the Czech Republic, Romani voters have long had no clear representation on the political map - for 20 years, the Romani community has not been represented in Parliament. One of the most recent Romani representatives in the Chamber of Deputies was Monika Horáková, today named Monika Mihaličková, who was elected on the (now-defunct) Freedom Union candidate list at the turn of the millenium. 

At the local level, after the elections in 2018, the situation with Romani representation improved. Thirteen Romani candidates all over the country are seated in local assemblies. 

A record number of Romani candidates ran in 2018. News server Romea.cz found at least 170 candidates running locally, but some estimate as many as 300 may have run. 

Rena Horvátová, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Election, Politics, Poslanecká sněmovna, Romani people



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