Czechs abroad have till Sunday to register to vote in presidential election

Czechs living outside their home country have until this coming Sunday, December 4, to register to vote in January’s presidential elections. Meanwhile the current government’s pledge to introduce postal voting has not become reality.

Envelope for US Postal Election | Photo: Tiffany Tertipes,  Unsplash

Direct presidential elections – which to date have been held twice – are the only such polls apart from general elections in which Czechs resident in other countries may cast their ballots.

To do so they must register in person or in writing at least 40 days before the date of the elections. Those for the successor to incumbent Miloš Zeman are set to begin on Friday January 13.

If no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote, the two leading candidates will face off in a second round a fortnight later.

Czechs living abroad need to travel in person to their nearest embassy or consulate general, where they will receive voting slips. In view of time differences some may vote on the evening of Thursday January 12, local time.

Those who were on the books at a Czech diplomatic mission previously and have not had their names removed from the list are automatically still registered.

People who are not on the register have until 4 pm this coming Sunday to apply.

Only embassies and consulates general maintain voter lists. However, honorary consulates may mediate inclusion, according to the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Czechs who are not resident abroad but are just visiting, for instance on holiday, may also vote at embassies and consulates general. To do so they produce the voter’s card issued to them by their local authority in Czechia.

However, despite decades of discussion, the issue of whether Czechs abroad should enjoy the same right to vote by post as people in most other European countries has still not been resolved.

The previous ANO-led government promised in its policy programme to introduce such a right, but then evidently cooled on the idea.

ANO’s Radek Vondráček says Czechs resident elsewhere do not have to live with the consequences of elections so should not be permitted to participate.

Petr Fiala | Photo: Office of Czech Government

The current five-party government headed by Petr Fiala of the Civic Democrats, installed late last year, also included voting by mail in its programme.

However ambitions to push through legislation to that effect before January’s presidential elections have not turned into reality, with the opposition ANO and Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy successfully using filibustering to block it.

More than one observer has pointed out that ANO chairman, and leading candidate for head of state, Andrej Babiš would likely have done poorly if postal voting had been introduced before January.

Thirteen thousand Czechs abroad cast their ballots at diplomatic missions in parliamentary elections in 2021; going by their votes alone, neither ANO nor Okamura would have reached the 5-percent threshold to get into the Chamber of Deputies.

Author: Ian Willoughby
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