Why are there so few Roma politicians?|
Whereas in 1990 there were eight Roma MPs in the Czechoslovak Parliment,
today there are none and candidates who belong to the minority have not had
much success in the recent communal elections either. Although individual
cases of success exist, they are extremely rare. Reasons behind the lack of
Roma representation in politics include negative cononations with the
minority among majority voters, a lack of popular candidates and low
election participation among members of the Roma minority themselves.
In November 1989 Emil Ščuka, one of the foremost Roma activists delivered
a speech on Prague’s Letna Plain, which was quite reminiscent of Martin
Luther King. Saying that he wanted ‘our children and your children to be
like brothers and sisters’.
At first the hopefulness seemed to be justified, as eight Roma candidates
succeeded in the Parlimentary elections a few months later, running on the
list of the Civic Forum. Since then however, the number of Roma MPs has
been steadily dwindling, with no member of the community currently in the
state’s highest legislative body. The situation in communal politics is
only slightly better.
Patrik Banga, who is a member of the Roma community and has written about
the problems of Roma representation in politics before, has a diagnosis for
this lack of representation.
“There is a whole range of reasons. The main reason, is that the Roma
themselves just do not vote and do not support their candidates.
Furthermore, candidates from the Roma community are hardly represented
on the lists of large parties.
“Right now, representatives from this minority regularly only appear on
the candidate lists of the Christian Democrats and the Green Party, but the
large, electable parties hardly list them, because there is neither the
support from the majority of the population, nor from Roma voters
Sociologist, Ivan Gabal, is more optimistic. He says that there is an
increasing number of significant Roma personalities.
“I think we can slowly start to expect the appearance of a personality
that will want to enter politics. What is extremely important, is how the
other political parties will react to this. If they will grab this
opportunity and channel it into a shift forward. After twenty years, we are
at a place where the Roma community is again able to generate strong
personalities, that will flurish.”
Mr. Banga agrees that it is up to political parties to place more
representatives from the Roma community on their candidate lists and sees
the communal elections as an ideal opportunity.
However, he is much more sceptical. The word ‘Roma’, according to him,
has become a tagline which people automatically associate with
“The Roma often just do not get on the candidate lists simply because
there is the threat of losing voters, because nobody wants to support the
Roma. So that is one of the reasons. As soon as you have this tagline, not
only are the Roma not motivated, but also political parties are scared of