Credit: Freepik

MPs Pass Bill Enabling Postal Voting For Czechs Living Abroad

The Chamber of Deputies today approved a government proposal enabling postal voting for Czech citizens living abroad, with the votes of MPs from the ruling coalition.

If approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, Czechs living abroad will be able to vote by post in the next general election, scheduled for the autumn of 2025, and will no longer have to go to embassies or consulates in person.

The opposition ANO failed with its proposal to debate the bill again in the second reading, and the far-right opposition party Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) with its motion to reject it completely. The amendment will now be sent for discussion by the Senate.

Of the 168 MPs present, 92 voted in favour of the bill, including members of the government coalition parties the Civic Democrats (ODS), Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), TOP 09, the Mayors and Independents (STAN) and the Pirates, as well as unaffiliated MP Ivo Vondrak (formerly ANO), while 75 ANO and SPD MPs voted against it and one ANO MP abstained.

The debate on postal voting at the lower house plenary session lasted about 96 hours in total.

The debate in the current final approval filled three session days and approximately 12.5 hours. A week ago, the Chamber of Deputies approved a fixed time for voting, proposed by the coalition, of 1pm today, meaning 56 opposition MPs did not get to speak. The opening round of the debate was the longest, lasting more than 63 hours.

The lengthy debate was accompanied by disputes between the opposition and the coalition, particularly over whether the proposed postal voting complied with the constitutional requirements for a personal and secret ballot.

Among the frequent arguments used by opponents were fears of a loss of public confidence in the regularity of the elections due to possible rigging.

Advocates of postal voting emphasised the need to ensure the right to vote for Czechs in large countries, for whom it is time-consuming and costly to travel hundreds of kilometres to the embassy to vote.

According to the government bill, Czechs who are registered in the voter list at the local embassy would be able to vote by post from abroad. The bill applies to presidential, parliamentary and European elections, starting from the parliamentary elections in 2025.

Opposition MPs have accused the coalition of trying to win new voters expediently. Representatives of the government camp, for their part, told the opposition that they should try to appeal more to voters abroad in order to win their votes.

The Chamber modified the draft with six changes proposed by the constitutional and legal committee.

Votes from abroad are to be counted in the four largest regions instead of two, which should reduce their influence on the distribution of seats. Even if a voter voted by post, they would still have the right to vote in person at a representative office at a later date, in which case their postal vote would be discarded. This measure relates to the possible influence of the voter’s surroundings on postal voting.

MPs also accepted another change, for voters abroad to be able to pick up voting packs for up to seven other people at the embassy on the basis of power of attorney.

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