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HN: Czechs still without postal ballot to enable voting abroad

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Prague, Sept 18 (CTK) – The Czech Republic still fails to introduce postal ballot to facilitate the participation in elections for its citizens abroad, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote on Monday, adding that the political scene remains split on the issue.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of foreign Czechs will not participate in the October 20-21 Czech general election, in spite of politicians’ long-lasting promises to introduce postal voting, the paper writes.

Unlike the Czech Republic, many other countries, including 24 out of the 28 EU states, have enabled their citizens abroad to vote by post.

“Unfortunately, our efforts in this respect have failed in our homeland,” Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) lawmaker Ivan Gabal told the paper on behalf of the step’s advocates in parliament.

He said their proposal met with resistance of Interior Ministry officials and also the senior ruling Social Democrats (CSSD), who fear that the support for them would be low among foreign Czechs.

Czech parliament dealt with a bill introducing postal voting in 2005 already, when it sailed through the Senate but was eventually sunk by the Chamber of Deputies in the final reading, blocked mainly by Communist (KSCM) and Civic Democrat (ODS) deputies, the daily writes.

Gabal said he also promoted the introduction of electronic ballot, but did not succeed either.

About 300,000 Czechs live abroad. The law enables them to take part in Czech elections, but under far-from-simple conditions.

They have to register at the Czech foreign mission in the respective host country 40 days before the election at the latest. On the day of the election, they have to turn up at the nearest foreign mission where a polling station was installed, often very far from their place of residence, to cast their ballot.

Postal ballot’s promoters among Czech lawmakers have even succeeded in putting the proposal on the Chamber of Deputies agenda earlier in the current election term, but the Chamber never discussed it, HN writes.

“Our coalition had other priorities,” CSSD deputies’ group chairman Roman Sklenak is quoted as saying, referring to the outgoing centre-left cabinet of the CSSD, the KDU-CSL and the ANO movement.

CSSD deputy Jeronym Tejc said he and some other CSSD lawmakers do not support the proposal.

“People may be cheating in postal voting. In addition, I believe that decisions such as the choice of the president or the height of pensions and taxes should be made by the people who permanently live here, not in the USA or Australia,” Tejc is quoted as saying.

Klara Peknicova, from the Interior Ministry, told HN that a bill enabling postal voting to foreign Czechs is being prepared. The date of its completion, let alone its success in parliament, is unpredictable for now, however, the paper writes.

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