You don't have to be Czech to vote in the Czech European elections - but you'll have to hurry if you want to register...

20-04-2004

For the first time ever, foreigners will be able to vote in a Czech election. When Czechs go to the polls in their first elections to the European Parliament in a few weeks' time, citizens from other EU countries will also be able to vote for Czech candidates - a strange thought just 14 years after the fall of communism. All you need is permanent or long-term residence in the Czech Republic. British citizen and Zizkov resident, David Vaughan went down to register.

I've come to the town-hall of Zizkov, Prague 3, which is the part of Prague I live in - it's rather an elegant, later 19th century building, and the reason I'm here is in order to register to vote in the European elections. So I'm going to go in, to find out what I need to do to take part.

I've come up to the fourth floor and I'm talking to Eva Cihelkova, who's in charge of the department that deals with voting rights in Prague 3. What do I need as an EU citizen to be able to vote in the elections?

"All you have to do is - by 2nd May, 40 days before the vote - go down to the local town hall, where you are living. You fill out and sign a form and a declaration that you will not be voting anywhere else."

So all I need to bring is the document that confirms that I have either permanent residence in the Czech Republic or long-term residence. I know that in many European countries it's also possible for foreigners from other EU states to vote in local elections.

"The law on elections to local authorities, which came into effect two years ago, takes this into consideration. You can't vote in parliamentary elections here, but you can take part in local elections. As soon as the Czech Republic joins the EU, a multilateral agreement will come into effect with all the EU members."

So that means that citizens of any of the 25 EU countries will also be able to vote in local elections here.

Eva CihelkovaEva Cihelkova "Yes, if they have permanent or long-term residence."

And I'd also be able to stand - theoretically - as a candidate in the European elections, wouldn't I?

"Yes, theoretically, you could, if a Czech party, movement or association put you on its candidate list - in fact, not just in theory, but also in practice."

How much interest has there been among foreigners in voting in the European elections?

"In Prague 3 we've had two so far, and it's the middle of April already."

And one of the two is me. There are two weeks for any further EU citizens to make up their minds. You're not expecting any sudden, last-minute interest?

"I don't know what the mentality of other European citizens is, but if they're anything like the Czechs, then they'll probably turn up at the last minute."

So it's now about twenty minutes since I went into the town-hall, everything has been sorted out, I've been given a letter confirming that I will be able to vote on the 11th and 12th June. So I'm now an official voter in the Czech Republic. But I've still got the toughest decision ahead of me - who to vote for. With 31 parties registered, I've got quite a choice.

20-04-2004

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