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October 22, 2020

 

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Romani candidates in the Czech elections: At least seven running for regional office and one for the Senate

25.9.2020 7:02
The Romani candidates running in elections to Regional Authorities and the Senate in the Czech Republic in 2020. (Collage:  Romea.cz)
The Romani candidates running in elections to Regional Authorities and the Senate in the Czech Republic in 2020. (Collage: Romea.cz)

News server Romea.cz has learned that at least seven Romani candidates all over the Czech Republic are among those seeking election in this year's regional elections. One Romani man, Cyril Koky, is running for Senate for the Pirate Party.

The Pirates are also the first parliamentary party in Czech history to run a Romani candidate as leader of their list in the regional elections, which means he is their candidate for Governor, Karel Karika in the Ústecký Region. Two Romani people are also running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement led by Tomio Okamura, a politician infamous for making antigypsyist, xenophobic remarks who is also regularly mentioned in the Czech authorities' regular reports on extremism.

News server Romea.cz is preparing to interview several candidates and ROMEA TV has invited them all to participate in debates that will be broadcast online next week. Compared to the regional elections in 2016, this is a significantly lower number of Romani people on the candidate lists of various parties.

In 2016, according to Romea.cz, at least 43 Romani people ran for election. More than half of them (23) were running for the Roma Democratic Party (RDS).

Another roughly 20 Romani people were on the candidate lists of different parties in 2016. They included the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), the Greens (Strana zelených - SZ), the National Socialists-LEV 21 group, and the Pirates.

No Romani candidates were elected four years ago. This year three Romani candidates are running in the Ústecký Region, two in the Liberec Region, one in the Karlovy Vary Region and one in the Moravian-Silesian Region.

Pirates: Two Roma running in the regional elections, one for the Senate

Apparently the candidate with the biggest chance of success among all the Roma running in regional contests is Karel Karika, a staffer with Caritas and the manager of the St. Materna Home in Ústí nad Labem. He is running in first place and is therefore the Pirate Party's candidate for Governor.

Karika is a recipient of the František Kriegel Award from the Charter 77 Foundation (Nadace Charty 77). There are also two other Pirate Party candidates from the Romani community who happen to have the same name, Cyril Koky.

The Cyril Koky running in the regional elections for the Pirates is from Frýdek-Místek and is running in the Moravian-Silesian Region. He is a project designer in the energy industry and a budding entrepreneur running in 29th place.

The Pirate Party's Romani candidate for the Senate is also named Cyril Koky and is running in his home town of Kolín. The Pirate Party has long been drawing attention, among other matters, to the fact that the approach taken to addressing the Czech Republic's ghettos is dysfunctional because it is being undertaken without involving Romani people themselves.

According to the chair of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš, it is important to emphasize that the party is not addressing "the Romani issue" by running candidates from the Romani community, but that they are addressing the issue of society as a whole together with Romani people. "I'm glad when I encounter young people from the Romani community who do not look at politics as a way to aid the Romani minority but as a way to help society as a whole, which logically will increase the quality of life for all, including the Romani minority, which objectively is worse off in the Czech Republic in certain aspects than the majority society," Bartoš previously told ROMEA TV.

Změna (Change) movement runs two Roma candidates in the Liberec Region

The "Change for People and the Landscape" (Změna pro lidi a pro krajinu - ZPLPK) movement is also running two Romani candidates in the Liberec Region. Marcel Fabián Grünza of Liberec is in ninth place on their list.

Grünza is an entrepreneur who for years has also been dedicated to social work and opened a drop-in center in Liberec. The second Romani candidate running for ZPLPLK there is the computer graphic designer and photographer Ondřej Kači of Liberec.

Kači is running in 23rd place. Two years ago he placed first in the "Portrait" category of the Photographer of the Year competition.

The ZPLPK electoral program says the party will always oppose discrimination and extremism. "We will always take a stand against discrimination and extremism. Harsh words and violence will never solve any problem, whether they are used to attack the unemployed, Romani people, state bureaucrats, homosexuals or tradespeople," the program says.

"Freedom and Direct Democracy": Two Romani people from Krupka on the movement's candidate list

Two Romani people are also running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura in the Ústecký Region, where candidate Andrea Kuchtová, a Romani businesswoman from Krupka, is running in 13th place. She is vice-chair of the local SPD cell in Krupka.

Romani candidate Ondřej Tancoš, a tutor at a children's home in Krupka, is running for the SPD in that same region. He is in 40th place on the SPD list.

The movement itself is regularly mentioned in the reports by the Czech Interior Ministry mapping the dissemination of hatred and extremism. The most recent report found it is exactly the SPD movement that is playing the main role in disseminating ethnic, racial and religious hate speech in Czech society.

SPD boss Okamura has long rejected the accusations that his movement is extremist or racist, and according to him, the evidence is exactly these two Romani SPD members, among other things. However, he very frequently attacks the Romani minority by, for example, casting doubt on the suffering of Romani people in the WWII-era concentration camp at Lety u Písku, and in one of his videos he alleges that steep growth in the Romani population should be considered one of the Czech Republic's biggest security threats.

Green Party: One candidate in the Karlovy Vary Region

There is at least one Romani candidate running for the Green Party in this year's regional elections. Emil Voráč is running in ninth place on the candidate list of the Greens in the Karlovy Vary Region.

Voráč has long been the director of the Khamoro public benefit corporation, which is a social services provider in the region. The Greens were the first larger majority-society party in the Czech Republic to offer room on its candidate lists to Romani people.

In 2010 the leader for the Green Party candidate list in the Pardubice Region was Romani candidate Lucie Horváthová (today Lucie Fuková). In 2013 during the early parliamentary elections the Greens ran nine Romani candidates.

In their program, the Greens write that the state should guarantee Romani people protection against racial discrimination and that Romani people should have equal access to education. "The Greens are convinced that the state must thoroughly guarantee not just protection from racial discrimination, hate speech and violence, but also the rights of the Romani minority to equal access to education, jobs and political decision-making, including the freedom of deciding upon whether to assimilate or emancipate themselves," the Green Party's long-term program reads.

Romani people long unrepresented in national politics

The national-level political map of the Czech Republic has long lacked any distinct representation of Romani people - for 20 years there have been no Roma elected to Parliament. One of the last Romani members of the Chamber of Deputies was Monika Horáková (today Monika Mihaličková) at the turn of the millenium, who was elected on the now-defunct Freedom Union's candidate list.

At the local level, however, the situation has been better in terms of Romani representation since 2018. Municipal assemblies all over the country had a total of 13 Romani-identified members after that election.

A record number of Romani candidates ran for office in 2018. News server Romea.cz found at least 170 candidates identifying as Romani, but estimates say there could have been as many as 300.

Tomáš Bystrý, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Pirátská strana, Politics, Strana zelených, Svoboda a přímá demokracie (SPD)



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