Repeat Election in Roudnice nad Labem
According to some witnesses, vote buying coloured the final results of the October 2010 municipal council elections in Roudnice nad Labem. As a consequence, the regional court annulled the election in one election district, Roudnice nad Labem – Bezděkov, and a new election took place there in early January 2011.
TIC representatives participated in the repeat election in Roudnice nad Labem – Bezděkov as observers. Unfortunately, initial concerns about repeated manipulation of election results through vote buying and targeted permanent residence registration in the district were fulfilled. In the week preceding the election, the municipality of Roudnice nad Labem registered a record number of applications for permanent residence in the Bezděkov city district. A total of 67 new residents registered, which equalled more than 10% of the district’s voters, i.e. a percentage that had a real chance of significantly influencing election results given a voter turnout rate of about 50%. In addition, these people applied for permanent residence in two buildings designated for reconstruction. Although vote buying in Roudnice nad Labem did not occur as visibly as it had in the original election, the addition of these new voters, who often were incapable of stating their address and who came out to vote in large groups, raised suspicions of election manipulation.
After the election results were announced, a group of citizens from Roudnice nad Labem appealed to the TIC Legal Advisory Centre for help preparing a petition to annul the election. The main point of the petition, addressed to the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem, was to point out the fact that the newly registered residents were allowed to vote twice during a single election: they voted first in the original election in their original place of residence, and a second time in the repeat election in Roudnice nad Labem – Bezděkov, which violates the principle of equality in the voting law. Another important argument was the lack of a substantial tie between the newly registered residents and the municipality where they participate in self-government by exercising their active voting rights but to which they have only a purely formal relationship. In the opinion of TIC, this is in direct conflict to the municipal council election law as well as some articles of the Constitution of the Czech Republic.
The Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem denied the petition, arguing that the intensity of the legal violation was not great enough to fundamentally impact the election results. In regard to registration for permanent residence, the Regional Court stated that according to Czech law registration for permanent residence is merely a formal recordkeeping matter, not a factual matter, and thus it is not appropriate to examine citizens’ relationship to the place of permanent residence.
Following the appointment of a governing coalition at the municipality, the citizens for whom the TIC Legal Advisory Centre had prepared the petition to the Regional Court decided not to appeal against the court’s decision with a constitutional complaint. In this case TIC lacked the standing to address the Constitutional Court directly but its arguments about the duty to re-examine the reasons behind registration for permanent residence shortly before elections were confirmed by the Constitutional Court in cases concerning the municipalities of Hřensko and Karlova Studánka. (These Constitutional Court findings are in the Judicial Decisions section.)