Little interest in voting among foreigners living in Prague

12-06-2004

This election has been a historic moment for me personally. After thirteen years living as a British citizen here in the Czech Republic, this was the first time I was able to take part in a Czech election: citizens from throughout the European Union are able to vote for Czech candidates to the European Parliament, that is as long as they do not vote elsewhere. As my name was ticked on the electoral roll and my 6-year-old son stuck the envelope with my vote into the ballot box, it seemed hard to believe that only fifteen years ago the Czech Republic was divided from the European Union by one of the most impermeable borders in the world - both physically and psychologically. But how much interest is there among foreigners living in the Czech Republic in taking part in these elections? Kay Grigar went to some Prague ex-pat hang-outs to find out more.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Tina: "I'm from Germany. I've been living here for three years."

Did you register to vote in the European elections here in the Czech Republic?

Tina: "No I didn't."

Why is that?

Tina: "Because I know the politics in Germany better than here."

Did you know that you could register here in the Czech Republic?

Tina: "No"

If you knew do you think you would have voted here in the Czech Republic?

Tina: "No."

Peter: "I'm from London."

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK How long have you been here in the Czech Republic?

Peter: "Just four weeks."

In England did you register for the European elections?

Peter: "No I didn't because I was beginning a new job, I was heading for this country and I had so many things to think about it was really the last thing that was on my mind."

Paul: "No, no, I just don't think the European Union is exactly democratic so I'm not sure that voting is going to make any difference as such. I mean, I'm all for the European Union cause it's doing a lot for animal rights but I don't think that actually voting one way or the other is going to make any difference. I don't think the laws are actually decided by the people that you vote for."

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK So, a heavy dose of scepticism there. But that's not the whole story. Alex Rosenzweig works in Radio Prague's French section. He has been living in Prague for more than a year and a half and has long-term residence here in the Czech Republic. He was only the second foreigner to register in his district - the first was a 70 year old Slovak woman. So how did Alex find the process of registering?

"Easy I have to say. I can speak a bit of Czech which made things easier. They had all the forms in English, French and German and really I think it took ten minutes."

How did you find out that you could register in the Czech European elections?

"I was kind of frustrated because I could not register in time to vote in France so I really wanted to vote and sought the information. I wanted to be able to vote in the country I was living in."

Obviously Alexis has the advantage of being a journalist. But even so what does he know about the Czech candidates for the European elections?

"I don't know a lot but I tried to get some information. I read the newspapers and collected all the prospects that the parties made. And as a journalist I had some interviews with some of the candidates but I'm not sure Czech citizens can get enough information as in other countries. The European elections are always on the national level, the debates are always on a national level so it can be really difficult to find information on these elections."

12-06-2004