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Czechs fear rise of the right in EU vote

Extremists parties are unlikely to win seats, but they could win state subsidies.

PRAGUE — Like others throughout the continent, Czechs are voting in European parliamentary elections on Saturday. And there is growing concern over the rise of right-wing extremist parties.

More than 30 parties are competing for the 22 Czech seats in the European parliament, and the two leading parties from the left and the right are expected to gain the lion's share of those seats.

It's not that any of the extremist parties is expected to win enough votes to gain a seat in Brussels, but rather that a combination of broad public apathy towards European elections combined with a get-out-the-vote drive by the extremists could result in one or more parties qualifying for state subsidies.

Political parties receive state funds based on the number of votes they get above a certain threshold, explained Walek Czeslaw, the deputy minister for human rights.

“The real fear is that with the low (overall) turnout they'll pass 1 percent of the vote and qualify for state funding,” he said.

Jan Hartl, director for the STEM polling agency, said both the Workers Party and the National Party could cross that threshold, if they can turn out about 26,000 voters. Of course, if overall voter turnout is higher than expected — perhaps 35 percent — than the 1 percent threshold will be higher.

In a campaign dominated by an outbreak of egg throwing whenever the leader of the Social Democrats took the stage, a 60-second add that aired only once on Czech public television managed to provoke a public outcry, if only momentarily.

While public attention was quickly diverted by egg throwing, the ad further raised alarm bells at the ministry of human rights and among advocates. The ad calls the Roma "black racists" and "parasites." But the most incendiary line advocates “The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question,” a virtual paraphrase of Hitler's 'The final solution of the Jewish question."