The Public Defender of Rights
News > Press Releases 2014 > European citizens, you have the right to take part in municipal elections

European citizens, you have the right to take part in municipal elections

16. 09. 2014

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU gives the right to participate in municipal elections to all citizens of the European Union who are long-term residents in the Czech Republic and have obtained a certificate of temporary residence. Considering that they are often deprived of this right in practice, the Public Defender of Rights initiated a meeting with the Minister of the Interior and recommended that the rules of participation of EU citizens with temporary residence in the Czech Republic should already be changed for this year’s municipal elections.

The Minister of the Interior disagreed with her recommendation and announced this publicly in his statement of 5 September 2014. He informed the Public Defender of Rights that the Ministry was planning to reform the election legislation in the future, where the new law could provide EU citizens with the electoral right. Nevertheless, as for the upcoming municipal election, the Minister rejected the requirement for a change in the methodology which would bring the situation into line with EU law.

The Public Defender is convinced that despite this rejecting position, EU citizens with a certificate of temporary residence in the Czech Republic can already exercise their right to vote in the upcoming October municipal elections. Indeed, electoral right is granted to them directly by European Union law to which the Czech Republic has agreed to adhere. The Public Defender considers that instead of waiting for a new electoral bill which would remedy the wrong transposition of European law, it is possible to directly apply EU law in this particular case.

In her opinion, EU citizens who wish to participate in the municipal elections can directly invoke the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the applicable implementing directive and apply for registration in the supplement to the list of voters in the municipality where they are registered for temporary residence. A detailed procedure for the exercise of the right to vote, including the possibility of subsequent judicial review, is described  here (209.4 kB, Adobe Acrobat document). Arguments in support of the direct effect of EU law that can be asserted by foreigners against municipal authorities and in a possible administrative action are described in detail  here (313.9 kB, Adobe Acrobat document). The Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic agrees with the legal opinion adopted by the Public Defender of Rights and its member organisations are willing to provide free legal aid to EU citizens who seek to exercise their electoral right. A list of contact details of the organisations to be contacted in individual cities is available  here (119 kB, Adobe Acrobat document).

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