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Penalty for vote-buying in Czech elections could be up to three years in prison

Ústí nad Labem, 29.1.2011 16:08, (ROMEA)

In future, the penalty for vote-buying in the Czech Republic could be up to three years in prison. Speaking in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Interior Minister Radek John told journalists he had agreed with the Czech Justice Ministry to create a new section addressing the phenomenon in the Criminal Code because current law does not consider it an offense. He said the new section should be written this spring, which is when the government will be looking at Criminal Code amendments.

According to John, the new section would recommend punishment from between half a year to three years in prison for persons convicted of purchasing votes. No punishment will be levied against those who sell their vote. John said that currently police cannot initiate criminal proceedings against vote-buyers even when they are able to prove the charges. "Some people will do whatever it takes to influence elections. Prison is the only solution," he said.

Tereza Palečková, spokesperson for the Czech Justice Ministry, said the ministry is not inclined to introduce a specific new crime to address vote-trafficking and would prefer to see the existing crime of interfering with the preparations for and course of an election or referendum expanded to include vote-buying. "We have agreed to the plan that the Interior Ministry will propose to us how the change to the existing facts necessary to establish such a case should be formulated," Palečková told the Czech Press Agency. The Interior Ministry will also amend the law on elections to address minor cases of vote-trafficking as misdemeanors.

Courts have ordered that last year's municipal elections be repeated due to vote-buying in parts of Roudnice nad Labem, Jirkov and Český Těšín. The case of Krupka in the Teplice district was ruled on by the Czech Constitutional Court, which found the vote-trafficking illegal and recommended to the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem that elections be repeated there. Local voters have attacked the outcome of the repeat elections in Roudnice nad Labem and Český Těšín, saying they too were illegally influenced.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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