Vote Buying in Krupka
Circumvention of the law was reported in a number of places in the Czech Republic during the municipal elections in fall 2010 and repeat elections in January 2011. These cases influenced the results of some municipal assembly elections and included various forms of vote buying and phony permanent residency registrations to increase the number of voters in some municipalities in the Czech Republic shortly before the elections.
During the pre-election campaign period and after the elections in October 2010, a number of citizens turned to TIC for advice on how to deal with this illegal activity. These citizens included a group of election candidates from the Town of Krupka. Shortly after the election results were announced this group filed a petition to the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem for annulment of the elections and voting or election of candidates to the Krupka municipal council. TIC provided legal advisory services to this group and compiled a supplement to the petition that was subsequently filed at the court.
The Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem decided to annul the election results in three districts of the Town of Krupka in which election manipulation on election day was proven (organized transport of voters to voting halls). But the court’s decision simultaneously maintained that the elections could be legally viewed as a business-trade matter, and thus payment of money for votes could be a means. At present legal instruments to punish these undesirable events are very limited; case law is not united in this issue as evident in the decision taken by the Regional Court in Ostrava, which issued a decision a few days later to annul elections in Český Těšín in which it sharply rejected this perception of elections. TIC offered legal representation at the Constitutional Court to the Krupka group of election candidates because, like this group, TIC also disagreed with the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem’s opinion that vote buying is not a breach of law and TIC was convinced that it is important that this authoritative institution address the issue.
The Constitutional Court first postponed taking a decision on repeat elections and on 25 January, 2011 it issued a groundbreaking finding in which it identified vote buying as an act that is in direct conflict to the principles of democracy. TIC welcomed the decision because it believes that it will significantly improve the level of election campaigns and elections.
TIC is satisfied with the Constitutional Court’s opinion on vote buying because this opinion will have to be respected by all courts in the Czech Republic in their decision making, but TIC is also concerned that not even this finding will prevent some individuals and groups from buying votes and the tactics used during repeat elections in Krupka in early May 2011, which led to court annulment of the repeat elections, showed this to be a legitimate concern. TIC will therefore continue to advocate for systemic changes that would prevent such activity or apply criminal charges to such activity.