The Czech government is currently undergoing a major transition. In the May 28-29 parliamentary elections, left-wing Social Democrats narrowly won, but center-right parties captured more votes overall. Of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Parliament, 118 new candidates were replaced.
One of the pressing concerns for many activists in the Roma community is that the post of the Minister of Human Rights will cease to exist under the new administration, because it was established by the outgoing coalition. A number of Czech human rights organizations have joined together to lobby for the preservation of the role. The human rights leaders argue that the funds spent on the position are minimal and that if eliminated, the result would be “the weakening of the broad agenda for protection of human rights.”
Currently the post closest to that of Minister of Human Rights is carried out by the Human Rights Commissioner, Michael Kocáb, who was assigned this role by the Prime Minster after resigning from the post of Minister of Human Rights and Minorities under pressure last March. Even in this capacity, the commissioner serves an essential, government-level function in advocating for the marginalized communities in the Czech Republic. The Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Communities, in existence since 2008, for instance, is a governmental agency in charge of coordinating integration activities in socially excluded regions, in cooperation with the commission on Human Rights and Minorities and under the leadership of the Office of Government.
Regarding the recent elections, the most significant development was that the voters, for the first time outright rejected the country’s two largest parties, which formed every government since the early 1990s, in favor of smaller parties. The campaign was the longest in Czech history, launched in the fall. The campaign was expensive as well, costing over 20 million dollars, with the top two parties spending nearly ninety percent of the total budget.
Of the 5,050 candidates running, only one was Roma. Lucie Horváthová ran on the Green Party ticket. The Greens did not make the minimum 5 percent margin of votes to qualify for a Parliamentary seat, however.
The three conservative parties which received the most votes have formed a right-wing coalition. These parties are: The Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV). The newly elected lower house of the Parliament convened for its first session last week. The internim Prime Minister resigned and a new, conservative Prime Minister, Petr Nečas, was just named by President Václav Klaus yesterday.
The new government coalition stresses reducing the state budget deficit as one of its primary goals. However, the measures and concrete steps which will emerge from the current coalition talks must not sideline the human rights agenda. The battle for eliminating poverty and structural barriers to equitable education, health care, employment and affordable housing, must continue with the government taking a strong stance of support. The marginalized communities need a government-level representative to continue lobbying for their cause.
Posted By Tereza Bottman
Posted Jun 29th, 2010