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May 19, 2022



Karel Holomek calls on Romani voters not to re-elect Czech President Zeman

17.4.2017 11:44
Karel Holomek at the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards.
Karel Holomek at the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards.

Karel Holomek, the chair of the Association of Roma in Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě) has called on Romani voters to take advantage of their right to vote and to cast ballots in this year's Parliamentary elections and the presidential contest next year. "I profess that I would never vote for Zeman, and if I may give you some advice, as an elderly person who is 80 years old: Do not vote for him! This is not a person who will ever unite us," Holomek said in a speech given on the occasion of the launch of this year's celebrations of International Romani Day in Brno, which news server publishes here in full translation.

Speech by Karel Holomek to launch celebrations of International Romani Day in Brno (3 April 2017)

Dear friends, lačho džives Romale, čhavale, phrala the pheňa,

I am a person who is advanced in age, as you can probably see, and I have a rather important thing to say to you precisely during these days, something very current that involves International Romani Day, even though you won't much want to believe it when I begin speaking. International Romani Day is a day of Romani pride, paťiv.

What now awaits us in the months to come, between now, the close of this year, and the start of the next one, may be a watershed event. Many people are reproaching me - "Mr Holomek, don't bring politics into this here" - but I must say this to you, because this is an extraordinary opportunity.

You should be aware, when you look at my white beard, that I have been involved in these matters for at least half a century or even 60 years. Elections are ahead of us to the Parliament and for the President.

Let's look at who aids the Roma - those parliamentary parties, those people who aid the Roma, are the ones we should vote for, and also we should vote for a president who will aid us, and I want to say a couple of words here about that. Right now we have a person who is leading the City of Brno who is absolutely brilliant.

I had a personal conversation with Mayor Vokřál last week, and he is a person who is pushing through programs that are not so customary in other cities, but there are indications that they might actually come to fruition here. A social housing program for people who have long not had anywhere to live, for one example.

You all know very well how things are among Romani families in that respect. It is important that this matter finally be pushed through.

Mr Vokřál is from the ANO political party, but not all of the members of his party agree with him. Then, for example, we have the Christian Democrats here, Ms Liptáková.

One would think that she might agree with the mayor also, but she doesn't. Back to the presidential election, though.

Now there is a new candidate for President, the chair of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Mr Darahoš. Czech President Zeman's spokesperson, Mr Ovčáček, immediately told us all that Mr Darahoš is just a grey mouse and that what they want in the Office of the President is an alligator.

I wrote about this for Lidové noviny. Do we want an alligator for president?

It might be better for an alligator to be here in the Museum of Romani Culture. I must tell you all that President Zeman, during the four years he has been in office and that I have been attentively following him, has damaged Romani people in several serious matters.

He has broken this society down with his tales of people who allegedly do not play a good role in this society, of Romani children who would be best off in Romani schools, of Romani people who will only be able to access apartments once they stop tearing up the floorboards for firewood. It's unbelievable.

Things of this nature are being said by the President of the Czech Republic. For example, he said them in Liberec, and the locals openly applauded him.

So you can see what the President is doing to us. Is he an appropriate, good candidate?

I have a lot to say about this here. I have known Zeman since 1989, I sat next to him when we were in Civic Forum.

He knows me well and I know him too. I profess that I would never vote for Zeman, and if I may give you some advice, as an elderly person who is 80 years old: Do not vote for him!

This is not a person who will ever unite us. Just take a look at how many locals from Brno are here together with us today.

It's just the same people who keep showing up on these occasions. There is a need to unite this society.

If we want to ascend as a people, then we need others to support us. Please forgive me for saying this, and for saying it so openly, but this matter will decide how our state develops, what its security will involve, in what direction it will head.

We should not head towards China or Russia, we should head west, because that is where culture and Europe are. As far as the parliamentary elections go, they will be here in the autumn, they precede the presidential elections by about three months, and they will happen somewhat within the framework of the presidential elections.

This new candidate, Mr Drahoš, is the person we should support. Take a really good look at which party supports which presidential candidate.

Let that support be a clear indication for you about whom to vote for - but primarily, friends, cast your ballots, don't consider voting a lost cause. It is our only option.

This republic is still democratic, still free, we still can speak freely and openly, as long as we aren't arrogant. Look at how far I can afford to go here!

That's a good thing, and I hope nobody's going to take me down because of it. You should appreciate this - vote, so you can decide.

Thank you all. Palikerav tumenge.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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