The anti-Roma protests as an issue of Czech election campaign?

Although the topic of societal status of Roma minority is lively discussed in public, the political parties reflect this issue very poorly. During the last three months many anti-Roma protests took place (mainly in north Bohemia and in several regional centres such as České Budějovice or Ostrava). Especially the protests in České Budějovice on July 22nd and in Ostrava a month later radicalised the Czech population. The riots were attended not only by right-wing radicals but by many so called “decent people” as well. The public discussion is characterised by term that describes the people dependent on social assistance as those who misuse the taxes paid by “normal people”. Often, it is targeted on Roma minority as a proof of misusing state social assistance.
Although the general election takes place in time period that one could call as a high time for wide range of populists’ movements (statistical data show many decades long recession, the social reforms and budgetary cuts made by centre-right government hit the socially weak people in time of rising unemployment), the political parties reflect the issue of societal cohesion as well as opposition against anti-Roma protests rarely. Nonetheless, if one has a look at official Facebook parties’ profiles, the reflection is more than weak.  

Having a look at each party’s official webpage or Facebook profile one can divide the parties into four groups:

i) Those which reflect the anti-Roma protests and use the party communications channels (negative)
Radical right-wing political party DSSS claims that riots against Roma are natural reaction against so called positive discrimination of minority and that Czechs are suffering because of their social assistance system misusing. Populistic movement Úsvit – hnutí přímé demokracie claims that the movement is not nationalistic and populistic. Tomio Okamura, the movement leader, emphasizes the law equality for all individuals. Therefore, Roma people must fulfil same criteria to get social assistance as all the others.
Both movements are very active on their Facebook profiles and they try to show how they are disadvantaged by media mainstream.

ii) Those which reflect the anti-Roma protests and use the party communications channels (against riots)
The Greens are the only party that calls for re-establishing of societal consensus and against radicalisation of any particular social group. The party calls for better targeted social assistance for people in need.
The Communist party calls for stopping anti-Roma protests as well. Contrary to the Greens, the party does not put the protests in wide societal context. The main goal is to re-establish economic growth that will lead to better living conditions generally.

iii) Those which reflecting the issue on other party communicating platform such as blogs
Contrary to the above mentioned parties, they do not feel need respond to the riots directly. However, the parties are very active on their Facebook profiles, they worry about or ignore the riots, and they even do not link the statement of their members with their official parties’ profiles. Interestingly, even if the party ČSSD was publicly asked to respond to the riots, the party officials did not feel need to make any statement on it. Contrary to this reaction, party members presented a statement of Michaela Marksová - Tominová – on party webpage - calling for social justice and respectable living conditions for all people hidden in the social troubles.
Contrary to ČSSD the right conservative party TOP 09 published on party webpage an opinion statement of Pavol Lukša emphasizing the need of fair using of social assistance while refusing creating group of people that according to his words have never worked. Nonetheless, it is confusing that this statement on official webpage is only one party reaction on anti-Roma riots. If one considers the party’s declaration of defending social consensus in their 2010 election manifesto, the reflection of today’s society is poor.

iv) Those which do not reflect the protests
The conservative right party, ODS, did not reflect these issues at all. There is no mention on their party webpage or Facebook. Surprisingly, the Christian democrats, KDU-ČSL, that emphasise social issues very often, kept silent during the anti-Roma protests.
New political movement ANO that will probably join the Parliament reflects social issues poorly, and last riots do not reflect at all.

Considering the high societal relevancy of anti Roma feeling, it is surprising that the parties do not communicate this issue with their electorate. However, the party ČSSD or KDU-ČSL stress social justice as a highly relevant issue in their election campaign, the reflection of recent development is missing. According to the latest survey, success of populist and radical parties is not expected. Nonetheless, it shows how the parties are worried about politicising this potentially risky issue.