By Declan Carey
MANY Czechs are still afraid of immigrants says Pirate Party candidate Cyril Koky, who wants to increase the representation of minorities in politics.
One of few Roma candidates in the Czech senate elections, Mr Koky stood on a platform of honesty and transparency, traits he believes are missing in the political landscape.
In the second round of senate voting, opposition groups won 26 out of the 27 seats available, with governing party ANO picking up only one seat.
READ MORE: Czech left has almost entirely disappeared as regional and senate election results roll in
Their coalition partners fared worse, with the Social Democrats winning none of the 10 seats they defended and the Communists remain without any representation in the upper house.
And despite disappointment in his campaign to represent the Pirates in the Kolín precinct, Koky says running for office sends a good message to the Roma community.
“In the Czech Republic we have got a political party in parliament that builds mainly on the fear of migrants” he told Redaction Politics, referring to the Freedom and Direct Democracy party.
“Previously it was fear of the Roma, and they have managed to gain the votes of almost half a million people.
“Their president is one of the deputy presidents of the Chamber of Deputies.
“Sadly there is quite a lot of fear currently not of the Roma but of migrants and those are opinions that are very well and alive in the Czech Republic.”
A report by Centre Delàs found that only 12 per cent of Czechs would be comfortable if their son or daughter had a relationship with a Muslim person – the lowest among European Union countries.
Approximately 250,000 Roma live in Czechia according to a Council of Europe estimate. About 10 to 12 million Romani people live in Europe in total.
“If I evaluate the situation of the Czech Roma in general, a huge problem is in the education system” Koky said.
“We’ve got all-Roma schools and all-Roma classes and some of the Roma population encounter discrimination in the housing market.
“Another problem is that we have very little political representation from the municipal level all the way to the national level.
“That is one of the reasons why I decided to run for the senate.
“We are lagging behind compared to Slovakia where the representation is much better both on the national and local level.
“That is why it’s important for Romany representatives, the most capable ones, to show that they can get voters and political positions from local to national level.”
The Freedom and Democracy Party, led by Czech-Japanese Tomio Okamura, campaigns against further immigration, advocating for ‘Czexit’ – leaving the EU.
But that goal remains unlikely, according to Petr Kratochvíl, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague.
“Euroscepticism is a much stronger force in the Czech Republic than in Poland and in Hungary” he told Redaction Politics.
“It is very common in the Czech context that when people go to the pub, they criticise the EU.
“Criticising the EU is something everyone engages in, which is not the case in Poland or other parts of central Europe.
“The coronavirus has had the effect where people realise the virus comes from abroad, but at the same time Czechs really love to travel.
“One million Czechs go every year to Croatia, it’s something like the British and Spain.
“So people who are otherwise quite eurosceptic realise that being in the EU has tremendous benefits.”
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