Some expats can vote in Prague elections

An EU treaty requires countries to give some voting rights to other EU citizens

Many expats in can participate in the municipal elections, scheduled for Oct. 5–6. The local elections are not only in Prague but across the country and the same rules apply.

European Union citizens with residence permits can vote, and they can also run for some local offices including City Council, but not mayor.

In practice, though, running for office is a bit complicated as a signed petition is needed to get on the ballot. The system is also geared toward parties and registered movements or associations, and not individual candidates.

The voting rights come from an EU treaty and European Council directive.

Voting rights are not automatic. EU citizens need to need to apply to be included on the addendum to the permanent electoral roll. Applications must be submitted to the voter's municipal office for his place of residence, up to two days before the election. Applying sooner is likely a wise move, as paperwork in the Czech Republic often has unseen complications and delays.

The Czech Ministry of Interior posted rules in 2010 and has not updated them. While the dates are no longer valid, as they refer to deadlines for the 2010 elections, most of the other information is still true.

They emphasize that registry in needed in advance. “Any voter - national of another State who has not applied for inclusion on the Addendum shall not be allowed to vote in the election to municipal councils,” the ministry states and offers no exceptions.

They also point out that applications can be made in person by people presenting a residence permit. “The applicant shall indicate as a minimum his/her first name, surname, date of birth as well as their place of permanent stay (address) in order to facilitate identification,” the ministry states.

“If an application is made in person, the written form shall not be required because the competent official of the Municipal Office executing an official record will include the required data into it based on documents presented to him by the applicant and comprising such required data (e.g. a residence permit),” they add.

“Nationals of other States may lodge their applications for inclusion on the Addendum to the Municipal Offices at any time … until the Addendum's closing day, which is two days in advance of the polling day at four o'clock pm,” the ministry states.

A court ruling in 2014 allowed EU citizens with temporary residence to vote, in addition to those with permanent residence. The case involved a Slovak citizen living in Brno-Královo pole. A change to the voting law in 2016 to allow for temporary residents to vote did not pass, but the Czech Ministry of Interior recommends that EU citizens with temporary residence be allowed to vote in 2018.

The EU website outlines some more requirements. “As a foreign EU national you are entitled to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections in the Czech Republic if: you are 18 or over on the second election day; you are registered for permanent residence in the Czech Republic as of the election day; you have not been deprived of legal capacity to exercise your right to vote; you are, upon your own request, listed in the addendum to the permanent election roll kept by the respective municipal authority,” the website states.

There are some restrictions. “You are eligible to vote in the municipal election in the Czech Republic if: your personal liberty has not been constrained due to serving a term of imprisonment; your freedom of movement has not been constrained for the sake of protecting the public health. Voting in municipal elections is not compulsory,” the EU website adds.

The EU in a separate document outlines the legal basis. “EU citizenship gives every EU citizen the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal and European Parliament elections regardless of whether they are a national of the EU country in which they reside, and this under the same conditions as nationals. This right is enshrined in Article 22(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The detailed arrangements for the exercise of this right are laid down by Council Directive 94/80/EC,” a European Commission report states.

“However, two restrictions exist. First, a Member State may decide that only its own nationals are eligible to run for head of the executive body of a basic local government unit. Second, if more than 20% of the eligible voting population are non-nationals, a Member State may require an additional period of residence to take part in municipal elections,” the report adds.

The right to vote in local elections is not well known. EU research in 2015 showed that only 53 percent of people in the Czech Republic knew about it, and the EU average at that time was 54 percent.

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