- Hans Weber
- September 28, 2023
More than 170 Romani men and women running in Czech local elections, one Romani candidate is running for Senate
Upwards of 170 Romani men and women are running in this year’s local elections in the Czech Republic and vying for seats on the local assemblies of cities and municipal departments. The elections will take place on Friday 23 September and Saturday 24 September and more than 195,000 candidates total will compete.
Local elections are always combined with elections to one-third of the Senate, and the runoff second round will be held one week later. Just one Romani candidate, Štěpán Kavúr, is running for the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) to become the senator from the Municipal Department of Prague 10.
News server Romea.cz has attempted to map the candidates from the Romani community who are running in these elections, just as we did four years ago. Where are they running, how many of them are there, and what chance do they have of succeeding?
Nine of the 12 local assembly members of Romani origin are seeking re-election
After the 2018 elections, news server Romea.cz reported that a total of 12 Romani men and women had won seats on local assemblies. The most successful candidate was Karel Karika, who won a seat both in the local assembly of the Municipal Department of Ústí nad Labem-město and on the Ústí nad Labem City Council.
Other Romani candidates who were seated four years ago are: Čonka, Martin (Cheb), Dancso, Marian (Lom), Červenický, Pavel (Milhostov), Cina, Radek (Milhostov), Zubko, René (Mimoň), Daniel, Jiří (Olomučany), Váradi, Oto (Ralsko), Berkyová, Monika (Stříbro), Bajger, Ján (Trmice), Bajger, Martin (Trmice) and Adamová, Renata (Chomutov). Nine of them are running for re-election this year.
Mr. Pavel Červenický (ČSSD), who served as the Mayor of Milhostov for many years, passed away in 2020. Radek Cina will not be seeking re-election there either.
Oto Váradi will not be seeking re-election in Ralsko and the SNK European Democrats will not be fielding any candidates there. Váradi was their frontrunner in 2018.
At least 173 Romani men and women are running
News server Romea.cz has learned that at least 173 Romani men and women are running in the local elections this year. That is approximately the same as in 2018, but it is just a minimum estimate, as Romea.cz has certainly not managed to identify all candidates of Romani origin.
Our list of candidates includes just those about whom we are sure that they are of Romani origin or candidates whose ethnicity has been confirmed to us by those in their circles. We will update this article should more candidates of Romani origin come to light.
Romea.cz estimates that, just as there were four years ago, there could be as many as 250 Romani men and women running on local candidate lists. More than 195,000 candidates are running for local office nationwide, about 21,000 fewer than in 2018.
Of the total number of candidates who are Romani, almost 38 % are women, 8 % more than in 2018. The Romani candidates are also younger on average than they were four years ago.
This time the average age of a Romani candidate is 42, compared to 45 in 2018. The youngest candidates are 18 years old and there are four of them, all women.
The Roma Luma political party is sending those young candidates to compete for local assembly seats. Two are running in Raspenava in fourth and in 18th place on a list there.
The other youngest candidates are running in Hradec Králové (25th place) and Sokolov (27th place). The oldest Romani candidate is Josef Holub (81), who is a retiree and a Romani mentor running for the ČSSD in Děčín.
In 2018, more than 58 % of the candidates of Romani origin were among the top 10 candidates on their lists, but this year just 48 % of Romani candidates have that same positioning. Twenty-seven per cent of the Romani candidates are in the top five places on their lists.
The Roma Luma political party has fielded 86 candidates
This year’s local elections will not see any candidates from the Roma Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana – RDS). It was delisted by the Supreme Administrative Court in March 2022.
In 2018, the RDS fielded full candidate lists in two precincts in Ostrava but failed to win any seats. In the Municipal Department of Vítkovice the RDS won 2.67 % of the vote in 2018 and 0.2 % of the vote in the Municipal Department of Moravská Ostrava and Přívoz.
This year the RDS has been replaced by the Roma Luma political party, which was registered with the Czech Interior Ministry in February 2022. Roma Luma is fielding 86 candidates on three full candidate lists in Hradec Králové, Raspenava and Sokolov.
The party also has an incomplete candidate list in Mělník, where four Romani people are running. In Hradec Králové, the leader of the Roma Luma candidate list is the father of the famous Romani singer Jan Bendig.
A total of 22 Roma Luma candidates are also members of that party, while the rest are running as independents. Roma Luma has two co-chairs, Marco Cavali and Emil Zajac, but the latter is not running.
Cavali is running in the Municipal Department of Prague 11 in third place on a candidate list called “Robert Vašíček – MY CO TU ŽIJEME” (Robert Vašíček – THOSE OF US WHO LIVE HERE). It is exactly this association with Vašíček, the former member of the SPD who is leading the candidate list in Prague 11, that has been criticized by many Romani people who are bothered by such a connection.
Two other candidates of Romani origin are also on that list. Stanislav Byl is running in fourth and Kateřina Ferencová is running in ninth place.
“We have other Romani people on the list, but it would be dubious to classify them as such because they are half-Roma and half-majority and they perceive themselves to be majority society members,” Vašíček told news server Romea.cz. Roma Luma candidates probably have the biggest chance of being elected in Raspenava.
According to an analysis by Romea.cz based on the 2018 local results, the party would just have to convince between 40 and 50 voters there to earn one or two seats on the local assembly. In Sokolov, based on turnout for 2018 (about 30 % of all eligible voters), it would be necessary to convince about 350 voters to win a seat, while in Hradec Králové about 1,250 voters would have to cast ballots for a candidate to be seated.
A Roma Luma success in either of those cities would therefore be surprising. In Mělník, given how the local election system is organized, the success of a candidate list that is not full is practically impossible.
Romani candidates in Trmice are trying to turn their luck around and finally join the leadership of the municipality
During the last two local elections, the town of Trmice became a phenomenon in terms of Romani representation: In 2014, a Romani candidate ran in second place on the list for the “Movement Together for Trmice (Independent Choice)” [Společně pro Trmice (Nezávislá volba)] and won 19.22 % of the vote. The party won three seats on the 15-member local assembly at that time.
In 2018, Romani candidates for “PRO! Trmice” [“FOR Trmice!”] won two seats and ended up in opposition. This year, again under the “PRO! Trmice” [“FOR Trmice!”] rubric, 12 Romani people on a 15-member list are competing for votes.
The Bajger father and son duo. who are currently local assembly members, are among those on that list. However, Romani people are also running on other lists in Trmice.
Specifically, two are running for the “Club of Engaged Unaffiliated Candidates” (Klub angažovaných nestraníků) and one for the “Association of Independents for the Town” (Sdružení nezávislých pro město). As in the past, Romani men and women have a big chance of being seated on the local assembly in Trmice once more, and it is just a question of whether there will be enough of them to finally make it into the leadership of the town.
Will Berkyová, Čonka, Dancso and Karika keep their local assembly seats?
The most successful Romani candidate in the 2018 local elections was Karel Karika (Czech Pirate Party). He is currently the vice-mayor of the Municipal Department of Ústí nad Labem-město and also a local assembly member for the whole of Ústí nad Labem – he is expected to defend his post in the Municipal Department at a minimum.
Whether Karika will be seated on the local assembly for all of Ústí nad Labem is an open question, as he is running in 30th place on the PRO! Ústí (“FOR Ústí!”) list and could only remain an assembly member if he were to win more preferential votes than other candidates on the list. As for Monika Berkyová, the Romani local assembly member in Stříbro elected for the Czech Pirate Party, her position there has not been easy.
Berkyová was the only Pirate seated and won even while running in second place. Some Pirates were unable to bear that outcome, so she left the party and is running this year in that same town for the ANO (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens) movement in fifth place.
ANO won the previous local elections in Stříbro and seated exactly five local assembly members. If Berkyová manages to repeat her previous success, she will probably serve as a local assembly member for another four years.
In Cheb, the Romani attorney Martin Čonka is running again for the “Choice for the Town of Cheb” (Volba pro město Cheb) group in eighth place. That group overwhelmingly won the last local elections, so Čonka has a chance of re-election this year as well.
Romani educator Marián Dancso also has a chance of re-election to the 21-member local assembly in Lom (population 3,600 +) in northern Bohemia, where he is leading the candidate list of “Citizens for the Town, the Town for the Citizens” (Občané městu, město občanům – OMMO). In Jirkov, Alexander Oláh could run successfully for OMMO, as he is in second place on the list.
In the small village of Olomučany (Blansko district) in the Region of South Moravia, Jiří Daniel, a Romani social services worker, could be re-elected to the local assembly and is heading the list there. In Bohemia, the Municipal Department of Neštěmice in Ústí nad Labem could see Romani football trainer Lukáš Pulko join the local assembly.
Pulko is running in second place on the list for the “Health Sport Prosperity” (Zdraví Sport Prosperita) group. Cyril Koky, a seasoned politician of Romani origin, will also compete for the Czech Pirate Party to sit on the local assembly in Kolín.
That contest will be difficult for him. During the last local elections the Pirates won just 2.52 % of the vote in Kolín.
The party would need about 11 % of the vote to win three seats, which would mean Koky would be elected. Romea.cz has discovered the names of other well-known Romani figures among the local candidates running this year as well.
For the ČSSD, Štěpán Kavúr is running in the Municipal Department of Prague 10 as well as for the Prague City Council and is also the only candidate of Romani origin running for the Senate. Rastislav Lučanský is running for the Brno-sever Municipal Department local assembly, while Jaroslav Horvath, a Romani football trainer and locksmith, is running for the local assembly of the Municipal Department of Slezská Ostrava for the “Together for Silesia” group (Společně pro Slezskou – candidates from the Christian Democrats, TOP 09 and independents), and Milan Horvát, a Romani entrepreneur who was awarded a Medal of Merit Third Class from Czech President Václav Klaus, is running in Lysá nad Labem.
Candidates of Romani origin on the lists of extremist and populist parties
Once again this year, Romani people running for anti-Roma, extremist entities are showing up in the local elections. News server Romea.cz warned of this for the first time in the autumn of 2017.
This year we have discovered five Romani people running for the SPD. In Krupka, as has become traditional, two such candidates are running for that party.
Andrea Kuchtová is running in second place on the SPD list and Ondřej Tancoš is in fourth place. In Sokolov, a coalition between the “Free Ones” (Svobodní), the SPD and Tricolor also features two Romani candidates, and one such candidate is running with the support of the SPD in Klášterec nad Ohří.
The Roma Luma party has also been criticized for its association with extremists. Journalist Patrik Banga has critiqued their connection to former SPD member Robert Vašíček.
It is exactly Vašíček who, according to Banga, is connecting the extremist scene to the Romani community. “Whoever cooperates with the promoters of disinformation is an extremist as far as I am concerned. If somebody is collaborating with Patrik Tušl, who was prosecuted for threatening to murder his own wife and who is currently in custody for attacking people, then that is all the more reason to consider them an extremist. In my view, this is an absolutely textbook example of extremism. Vašíček is the link between the extremists and the Roma,” Banga told news server Romea.cz previously.