Politicians bribing impoverished Roma for their votes in northern Czech Republic
Yesterday police officers in the town of Krupka were investigating allegations that someone is trying to manipulate the ongoing local elections there. A group of several dozen Roma were reportedly helping one another fill out their ballots in front of the polling place at the Maršov housing estate. Regional police spokesperson Marie Pivková told the Czech Press Agency police did not observe anything illegal at the scene, but eyewitnesses say the Roma had allegedly been promised CZK 300 for proof they had voted for a particular party. Two days prior to the elections, fliers offering the money were distributed around Krupka. Other efforts to buy votes have been reported from the town of Roudnice nad Labem.
"A lady called us to say the Roma were gathering in front of a building and then driving each other to the polls. There is a higher concentration of Roma inhabitants gathered there, but our patrol did not see anything illegal going on. They were evidently advising one another on how to fill out the ballots," Pivková told the Czech Press Agency. The group gradually dispersed after police arrived.
Eyewitnesses claim bribes were paid on the spot. "Each one has been promised 300 crowns. I photographed and recorded it on the spot with a hidden camera. When the police arrived, they went to vote and then to a restaurant to tally it all up," Pavel Horák, a photographer from Krupka who observed the reportedly boisterous gathering, told the Czech Press Agency. Horák believes a local politician is behind the vote-buying.
Last Wednesday someone distributed fliers in the town reading "Come vote with us. Come support us and we will support you." Those interested were invited to gather in the same parking lot where the Roma gathered today. The anonymous author of the text promised the "support" would take place every two hours between 14:00 and 20:00.
At a bar in the town of Roudnice nad Labem, unidentified organizers also promised remuneration to people in exchange for their votes. After their ballots were completed, organizers transported the voters to the polls.
A Czech Press Agency reporter witnessed the organizers in Roudnice telling people to select party number 7, the "Roudnice Locals Party" (Roudničané). They would then be paid CZK 500. Those participating were mainly young people and Roma, about 50 of whom gathered in front of the bar at about 16:00.
Mayor Josef Bakeš said local police documented the entire event and photographed the vehicles used to transport people to the polls. They submitted the evidence to the state police, who then also came to the scene to investigate. Some people left after the officers showed up, while others remained on the scene and hid out in the bar.
Vote-buying has also been reported in the town of Chodov. People in the Železný Dvůr locality, predominantly inhabited by Roma and socially disadvantaged families, were offered money to vote for a particular party. A large number of residents were driven to the polls in a particular vehicle.
A 60-year-old woman from Železný Dvůr who was waiting to be picked up in front of her building told journalists: "I don't know who it was, but they promised me 150 crowns. I've been waiting here a long time but no one has come for me yet." A young man standing nearby confirmed her story. "A guy was going around offering 150 crowns," the youth said. "We are carefully investigating this case and will report on our findings," police spokesperson Martina Hrušková told the daily Právo.
Regional police spokesperson Marie Pivková said police were investigating the Železný Dvůr case as well. She said police received many such reports yesterday morning from all over the Ústi region, including from the towns of Kadaň and Jirkov.
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