Who cares about politics back home?

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As you've no doubt heard on Radio Prague this week - June's general election will be a historic one. For the first time ever, Czech citizens living beyond the borders of the Czech Republic will be involved in the electoral process. Yes, after years of lobbying and lengthy debate, Czechs living abroad have finally won the constitutional right to play a full and equal role in deciding their country's destiny, by casting their vote in elections to the lower house of the Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.

As you've no doubt heard on Radio Prague this week - June's general election will be a historic one. For the first time ever, Czech citizens living beyond the borders of the Czech Republic will be involved in the electoral process. Yes, after years of lobbying and lengthy debate, Czechs living abroad have finally won the constitutional right to play a full and equal role in deciding their country's destiny, by casting their vote in elections to the lower house of the Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.

Or rather they would play a full and equal role in deciding their country's destiny if (a) they were actually aware of this privilege, and (b) if they could be bothered. Unfortunately for the Czech Republic, it seems neither is the case.

Last Sunday was the closing date for registration at Czech embassies and consulates for those citizens wishing to vote abroad. A tiny fraction of them - just over 2,000 of the 70,000 Czechs registered with their embassies around the world - made the deadline.

Australia, for example, has an official Czech population of 9,000. Of those, just 64 bothered to register. Yes, I hear you say, but if you had a summer job shearing sheep in Alice Springs, would you make the 1,000-mile trip to Sydney just to vote? Well, probably not. Let's take another example. In Britain, there around 2,000 Czech citizens registered with the embassy in London's Kensington Palace Gardens. Of those 2,000, how many registered to vote? 17. I'll say that again because I can't quite believe it. 17.

Among the 1,983 - or thereabouts - who haven't registered is my brother-in-law. I called him up on Monday to see whether he'd like to be interviewed on the programme. After explaining to him how he'd missed the deadline - he hadn't heard anything about it, by the way - he said he probably wouldn't bother even if he could. It was a waste of time and money trudging up to London, he said, and anyway, British politics was more interesting.

And in a sense, he's right. He's been a resident of Britain for five years now, and while he still follows events at home closely - reading on-line versions of Czech newspapers and so on - what happens in Britain is of much greater relevance to him. It's hard not to understand. I myself care little about the state of the NHS, or what Tony Blair thinks about the euro and why. I'm more interested in the state of the Czech health service, and when the Czechs are going to join the EU. Because after all, I live here. Maybe it's time to change the system again. Just a thought.