Polling stations open in New York

Polling stations in America, source: CTK

The elections which start here in the Czech Republic are historic - for the first time ever, Czechs living abroad have a chance to vote. However, the number of voters who registered at Czech embassies and consulates has fallen short of expectations - according to unofficial estimates there are about 70,000 Czech citizens living abroad but only around 2000 of them registered themselves as voters. The first to cast their ballots will be Czechs in the United States where the elections take place a day earlier to ensure the results would not be delayed due to the time difference. Our correspondent Jaromir Marek is in New York where he spoke to Roman Masarik, the Czech consul in New York and chairman of the election committee there:

Polling stations abroad
"This year, we have 173 voters registered at the Czech consulate in New York. It's a relatively very small number of people comparing to the number of Czechs living in our area. We estimate that there are several thousand Czech people living in the consular district of New York."

What is the reason for this situation, that only very few people registered themselves to vote?

"There are different factors. One is that we have only three possibilities, three places in the United States where it is possible to vote. It's in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. Considering the size of the United States, it is very difficult for some Czech people to come to vote. The second factor is that comparing to the situation in the Czech Republic, the election is not so interesting for Czechs living abroad. They do not think that it is so important to come and vote because many of them simply do not know whom they should prefere, which party to vote for."

Polling stations abroad
But it is historically the first possibility for Czechs living abroad to join the elections in the Czech Republic...

"Yes, fortunately this chance was given by the Czech parliament to Czech people living abroad but I hope that the next parliament will pass another act which will enable a correspondence vote, it means that much more could be involved in the elections. Let's hope that it will be in the next elections in four years."