2,800 Votes Miscounted in Central Bohemia – Mistake or Fraud? Czech Supreme Court Weighs in

Brno, Nov 19 (CTK) – The Czech Interior Ministry and parliament must react to the flaws in the October general election that the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) found while checking the election result in Central Bohemia, NSS judge Tomas Langasek said when presenting the verdict following the check today.


After recounting preferential votes for Civic Democrat (ODS) candidates in more than 900 constituencies, about a half of all constituencies in Central Bohemia, the NSS said one of the four lower house seats the party won in the region goes to Martin Kupka instead of the originally “elected” Petr Bendl.


Outgoing Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the ministry will study the NSS verdict and propose possible changes.


Langasek warned of a risk threatening in future.


“If nothing changes on the legislative and executive levels, the threat would arise for the court to have to make even more extensive checks of election results, which could lead to the paralysing of the constituting of [constitutional] bodies [after elections],” Langasek said.


“The NSS might even decide to declare [the victory of] more candidates void, or even of the election as a whole,” he warned.


In Central Bohemia, some electoral commissions by mistake did not count the preferential votes people gave to Kupka, ODS deputy chairman and mayor of the Libeznice village who ran in the 31st position of the ODS’s list of candidates and whose name figured on the reverse side of the ballot papers.


Furthermore, some commissions wrongly registered preferential votes for the candidates figuring in the first four positions on the ballots even if the voters marked no candidate’s name as their favourite.


The check unveiled wrong counting of a total of 2,800 preferential votes.


The NSS made a few recommendations today, such as that a single election code be introduced to apply to all types of elections, that the checks of vote counting be more professional and that lists of candidates not be printed on both sides of the ballot papers.


ODS chairman Petr Fiala said he respects the NSS decision and congratulates Kupka on entering the Chamber of Deputies.


He thanked Bendl for his work as a deputy, “one of the ODS’s most hard-working,” in the previous election term.


Fiala said changes are necessary in reaction to the NSS verdict today. “To prevent the weakening of people’s confidence in free elections, it is necessary to draw a lesson from this affair and make changes so that similar things do not occur any more,” Fiala said.


Similarly ODS MP Jan Skopecek said the flaws uncovered by the NSS endanger the legitimacy of the ODS’s election result in Central Bohemia, and that ways must be sought to simplify the work of electoral commissions.


He welcomed the NSS’s decision as correcting a mistake and bringing about a result that reflects the real will of voters.


Nevertheless, if a politician is to lose an election and leave parliament, it should happen after the polling stations close, not several weeks later, Skopecek said.


The Interior Ministry views the verdict as binding on it and it will work with it, Chovanec said.


“We will prepare contours of changes to the ministry’s procedure. The affair is brand-new now, give us one to two days,” he said, adding that the ministry might react comprehensively on Monday or Tuesday.


The NSS check also found out that the ODS in fact gained 14 votes fewer in the region, compared with the post-election official result, but stated that this is no fundamental discrepancy that could influence the balance of forces in the Chamber of Deputies.


In the October 20-21 general election, the ODS ended second after the victorious ANO movement, gaining 11.3 percent of the vote and 25 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. In the Central Bohemia Region, the four candidates who ran in the first four positions won the seats of deputies – Jan Skopecek, Veronika Vrecionova, Vojtech Munzar and Petr Bendl. Ending fourth, Kupka narrowly failed to win a mandate. This changed with the NSS verdict today, which decided that the ODS’s fourth successful candidate is Kupka, who is replacing Bendl still before the start of the new lower house’s constituent session on Monday.