Friday, 14 December 2018

Lower house not to vote about Okamura's dismissal

ČTK |
8 March 2018

Prague, March 7 (CTK) - The Czech Chamber of Deputies will not vote about the dismissal of Tomio Okamura, leader of the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), from post of its deputy chairman over Roma Holocaust denial as the lower house did not approve its planned programme on Wednesday.

The session eventually did not take place.

At first, 77 out of the 176 deputies present voted for the approval of the programme of the extraordinary session that was to deal with the affair, with 49 votes against it.

The vote was questioned by Zbynek Stanjura, chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy group. In another vote, 78 deputies were for and 41 against it, which was not sufficient.

Out of the strongest deputy group, ANO, only one member, Rostislav Vyzula, supported the session, while others either voted against it or abstained from the vote.

Chairman of the Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) deputy group Jan Bartosek said on behalf of those who wanted to call the session that the basic responsibility lied with the lawmakers for Prime Minister Andrej Babis's ANO.

All the 22 deputies for the SPD were against the session, which was not backed by Communists (KSCM), who have 15 seats in the lower house, either.

The vote was preceded by a discussion in which Okamura's opponents said he had played down the Roma Holocaust suffering, due to which he should not represent the Czech Republic in the senior post.

SPD deputy chairman Radim Fiala dismissed the idea that the SPD denied the Holocaust.

In Januaury, Okamura said that the World War Two Roma camp in Lety, south Bohemia, had not been fenced. Later he admitted that there was a fence, but insisted that no one guarded it and the inmates could freely move around.

Critics say by his statement Okamura downgraded the Roma Holocaust victims who died in the Lety camp. They also point to similar words by other representatives of the anti-EU and anti-migration SPD on these matters.

Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) told journalists after the vote that Okamura had thoroughly apologised for his statements about the Lety camp, which is why his dismissal from the lower house post was no longer needed.

Vondracek said he believed that Okamura would cultivate his verbal appearances in the future.

The KDU-CSL's proposal that an extraordinary session be held to deal with Okamura's dismissal was previously signed by 86 deputies.

Vondracek said he did not support the session's programme on Wednesday, but the proposal to dismiss Okamura may still be put on the agenda of the Chamber's regular session in April.

He would not anticipate the stance of ANO deputies, who prevented the extraordinary session on Wednesday, if a vote on Okamura were held in April.

The opposition criticised ANO, the KSCM and the SPD for having prevented a debate on Okamura's dismissal.

CSSD deputy and former PM Bohuslav Sobotka called this a shame to be blamed on ANO together with the KSCM.

TOP 09 deputies' group chairman Miroslav Kalousek said ANO has thereby supported extremism and intolerance.

Mayors and Independents' (STAN) deputy chairman Vit Rakusan said the Chamber of Deputies is experiencing legitimisation of the distortion of history.

Pirates chairman Ivan Bartos wrote on Facebook that he unsuccessfully appealed on SPD lawmakers to enable the session to take place, including a secret vote on the dismissal of Okamura.

"The possibility to dismiss politicians [by people] is one of the SPD's programme goals... Tomio Okamura was so 'courageous' that he even did not address [parliament within the debate today]," Bartos wrote.

KDU-CSL chairman Pavel Belobradek, too, criticised Okamura's silence, and also the silence of the government members present.

"No one from the [ANO minority] government joined the discussion or voted for the programme, including those who otherwise hypocritically criticise the SPD," said Bartosek.

Belobradek warned against the tyranny of the majority and said hatred may also turn inside the parties that are spreading it.

KDU-CSL and TOP 09 representatives called it hypocrisy that Babis was visiting the Museum of Roma Culture on Wednesday while ANO deputies were supporting extremism and intolerance in the lower house vote.

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