17. října 2016 | News

Janusz Konieczny: Rozsáhlému kupčení se letos podařilo zabránit

Monday Comment

Last Friday I decided to visit the Chánov housing estate. And for a good reason: regional and Senate elections were taking place. At the last polls in 2014, the winning party collected 87 percent of the vote there. But if you think that party is extremely popular in Chánov, where it set a national record the last time, you are wrong. Local people do not know the party, although they massively voted for it. People on the Chánov development lot obviously enjoy elections, but not because they would change something but because they get 200 crowns in cash, a pack of cigarettes, or some other reward for their votes. When I got off from my car I was instantly surrounded by small children begging for money. I felt like I am in India or some other developing country. Kids got bananas instead of small change. Adult natives were also pleased by my visit, for they thought I would pay them for their votes. In the event, they were pretty annoyed to see me chasing away the vote peddlers. I was told that here, like in other excluded localities, vote buying is rampant in any type of elections, not only local, where the practice is most widely spread. The occasional police van staged a presence to make a round and drive off. This time, however, vote-buying was not helped too much, because a trial happened to be underway because of the selling in Chánov on the previous polling weekend. Although the election commission, normally accustomed here to seeing crowds of confused people, was happy to see people coming to the polls this time. Anyway, turnout at the second round of Senate elections was a miserable 0.84 percent. Local people are unanimous: either they will get paid for casting a vote, or they will not turn in. No other option is applicable.

In order to register vote-buying instances, I posted an associate in another excluded locality, and the local fairly quickly directed him to a place where money was reportedly paid for votes. The site was positively filled with people who were looking forward to cash for their ballots. I said to myself that one the transaction starts I will sent police in and provide them with evidence about the business. In the event, the person concerned arrived late in the evening and told me he had not received pre-filled envelopes and there would probably be no cash for votes.

But various people from Ústí nad Labem inform me that money will be paid on the Mojžíš parking lot or near the school at Předlice. They eagerly proceed to that place, only to see nobody has arrived. This year’s election turnout in the excluded localities of the Ústí area was record-low. Vote-buying was probably quite sporadic and although I heard about some cases, the testimonies were not sufficiently relevant.

Which, however, is something one cannot settle with. Poll-watching here resembles putting down flames, and the situation in the excluded localities is not getting any better for it. The brunt of responsibility lies not only on the central level, but also on local self-governing bodies, some of the members of which maintain positions of power only because they in fact organize illegal vote buying, which of course is a criminal thing to do. These local strongmen completely ignore the situation in excluded localities, and many of them actually profit from local problems. They often work in concert with dormitory owners or gambling agencies that run many casinos and gambling parlours in such localities. I have often met with townhall officials and asked why they have not prohibited such gambling nests or solved other problems within their constituencies. All I get is shrugs and uncertain answers to my questions.

The situation in the excluded localities can be tackled, but not without changing the local environment at first. It is necessary to encourage local citizens to bring about a change and set positive examples for their neighbourhoods. Such people will get elected—not as a reward, but as an expression of inner persuasion.

Janusz Konieczny - NFPK Analyst