Editor’s Word - Again, I did not vote!

7-8 2009 Slovo redakce English
obálka čísla

In 1996 I was not able to vote for my representatives because I was traveling all over Australia, gathering reports. Even at that time, discussions were being held, dealing with citizens living abroad and their right to vote. Later on, it was stated in these discussions that since those people had left their country they should suffer for it by not being allowed to vote. On the other hand there were voices saying that they should not be discriminated if they had Czech citizenship. It was at that time that people realized that there were citizens staying abroad who don’t actually live there, but either work there or are just visiting. What a discovery that was! As a matter of fact there are quite a few of these citizens such as students studying in foreign schools, young people holding part time jobs, physicians, scientists, artists, who represent us in various regions and lastly the government all the way up to the president who may just happen to be far away explaining our successes and forming solid friendships.

At the beginning of 1997, I brought from Australia a petition requesting the possibility of voting by correspondence, such as other countries have. In Prague the signatures, mine was the first, were multiplied by many more and parliament was seriously considering taking action. I was invited as a petitioner to a parliament session, where representatives of political parties met in order to cast a vote. Most of them rejected that idea arguing that it would cost too much. Others said that it would be too demanding from the technical point of view. Still others stated that it would be practically impossible to accomplish. Nevertheless the session closed with a decision to leave the subject open to discussion. So the discussions have been going on for more than 15 years. However some sort of “hotchpotch” law had been passed stating that citizens may vote but only in CR or at Czech embassies. Unfortunately before they can do that, they must request a voting ticket, and fill out a questionnaire, which is available only at certain official points. Trying to get these documents by mail is highly impractical since these posts are operated by state employees who are not usually in a hurry to do the job and thus the possibility of getting these papers in time for the elections is highly improbable. No wonder that at the first elections after that “hotchpotch’ law had been passed it was mostly clerks working at embassies that took advantage of the opportunity to vote since they had no need to travel. On the other hand, citizens living hundreds or even thousands of miles away simply ignored it. Not only is it time consuming, but it may also cost a lot of money for it may require paying not only for transport, but often even for accommodations.

As you can see, this fantastic opportunity has brought the citizens living abroad for various reasons just a bitter reminder of the arrogance and incompetence of our great representatives. And voting by correspondence that exists in many countries and, which is usually used by ill people? It is discussed from time to time and the Senate Committee for citizens living abroad speaks about it at every meeting and even gives incentive to the Ministry of Interior, Parliament, and even the government. However, “there’s no will among the political spectrum”, as the senators and members of parliament say.

My great work with the Czech Dialogue often takes me away to visit these citizens. I can’t even remember how many times I was unable to attend elections. Once I was in Canada, then in Sweden, and now in the USA. Even if I were a millionaire and was able to hire a plane to fly from Texas to Washington, I would not do it because on Saturday June 13, I would have missed the genuine Czech get-together in the town of East Bernard. There were 11 Czech bands playing, wonderful pastries and sausages. People danced and were as bright and happy as the sun shining above them on the Texan sky.

Eva Strizovska

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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