Why the Czech Republic’s municipal elections should matter to expats

Forthcoming elections to local councils provide EU citizens living in Czechia with an opportunity for democratic participation.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 05.09.2022 09:35:00 (updated on 05.09.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

Expats living in the Czech Republic have the chance to take part in key elections on Sept. 23 and 24 which will help determine the future direction of their city. The outcome of the forthcoming municipal elections is more important than ever as the country faces significant challenges at home and abroad.

Expats can often feel detached from local politics. But EU citizens over 18 years of age with temporary or permanent residency in the Czech Republic are entitled to vote in municipal elections, giving them a vital opportunity to participate in Czech democracy and make their voices heard.

What are the municipal elections?

Municipal elections are held every four years. They see local councilors elected who run local affairs and nominate key positions, such as mayor. Like Czech general elections, they use a system of proportional representation, meaning each party gets representation equivalent to its share of the vote.

This year’s municipal elections are being held at the same time as Senate elections, in which only Czechs can vote.

Municipal elections are particularly important because local authorities exert a powerful influence on everyday life. By making decisions on public transport and local road networks, education and healthcare regulations, requirements for local businesses and much more, they are responsible for furthering the specific requirements and wishes of local people. 

Prague City Hall / photo via iStock
Prague City Hall / photo via iStock

But this year’s municipal elections also carry a wider significance. Amid the global turmoil of war in Ukraine, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Czechia, and the energy crisis gripping Europe, they provide a chance for people to have their say on politicians’ handling of the difficult circumstances.

If you want to have your say on the governance of your local area, now’s your chance.

How to vote

If you haven’t voted in Czech municipal elections before, you’ll need to register to vote in the local municipal office of your official place of residence.

Just take your ID card or passport with you to your local municipal authority, and they’ll do the rest. Alternatively, you can register to vote by post; find more information and a sample application here. If your permanent address in the Czech Republic is in Prague, you can register to vote in the capital city. If it’s in another city, you’ll be voting for that municipality’s council, even if you’re living temporarily in Prague or elsewhere. The deadline for registration is September 21.

Once you’re registered, you will be notified of the address of the designated polling place in your home municipality by post. Polling places are often in local public buildings such as schools. Again, remember to take your ID with you when you go there to vote on Sept. 23 or 24. Polling places will be open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the first day, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second. 

You’ll receive a voting envelope in which you’ll find a ballot paper with all the possible candidates. Take this paper behind the curtain to make sure your vote is secret, and mark your favorite party.

If you’ve really done your homework and have a preference for particular individual candidates, you can mark them with a cross on your ballot paper. This will give them a better chance of getting elected. But you can’t simultaneously nominate a whole party as well as all its individual candidates.

You can nominate as many candidates as there are positions on the local council; in Prague, that’s 65 positions. Your ballot will be invalid if you nominate more candidates than there are positions.

Then put the filled-out ballot paper back in the envelope, seal it, and drop it into the ballot box. Job done!

Five reasons why you should vote

  • 1.Local councils affect your day-to-day life In general elections, people vote for representatives in the lower house of the Czech parliament. The party or group of parties with the highest number of votes forms a government that then determines the country’s overall direction and proposes legislation. But local councils are often more responsible for matters affecting citizens’ day-to-day life. The outcome of the municipal elections could have an impact on things that are important to you, such as the cost of public transport, rules for local businesses, school regulations, and more.

  • 2.Decide the future of your region Each of the political parties involved in the municipal elections has a different plan for how to govern, both locally and nationally. What’s more, exercising your right to vote will influence the selection of the next mayor of your town from among those parties. “We do not have a direct election for mayors in the Czech Republic,” says Vít Hofman, spokesperson for Prague City Hall. “The city’s residents elect representatives, who then form a coalition of parties in post-election negotiations and elect a mayor.”

  • 3.The higher the turnout, the more democratic the process Despite the importance of municipal elections, turnout could be higher. “Voter turnout in Prague was 46.44 percent in the last election,” says Hofman. High voter participation is key to a functioning democracy. The higher the number of votes, the more representative the result is of the wishes of society as a whole. In this context, the possibility for EU citizens to vote in municipal elections brings a democratic boost, allowing representation for those whose voices aren’t heard in other types of elections.

  • 4.Voting will make you feel part of Czech society Even if politics isn’t usually your thing, voting is a way of actively participating in Czech society. Any kind of involvement is better than none, no matter who you vote for, or your own political beliefs. So instead of just letting the vote pass you by, you can use it as an opportunity to learn more about the place where you live and even discuss it with your friends and colleagues.

  • 5.This is a vote like no other The Czech Republic goes into this election under unique circumstances. The country, and the capital city Prague in particular, is hosting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war in their home country. The Covid pandemic is still fresh in the memory, and it seems likely that the country faces more turbulent times ahead.

It’s, therefore, more important than ever that those eligible to vote participate in elections set the direction of the politicians governing their affairs, and hold those politicians accountable for their actions. Participating in the coming municipal elections is a quick and easy way for every EU citizen to do exactly that.

Anyone with questions about the municipal elections or interested in finding out more should contact the Expat Centre Prague via email or on social media.

This article was written in cooperation with Expat Centre Prague. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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