Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Former Soviet satellite votes on EU Parliament

CZECH REPUBLIC In 1989 it would have been unthinkable, but Czechs turned out on Friday to choose representation in a European legislature


Nora Baumberger, a pornographic actress known as Dolly Buster and now a candidate for Europe's Parliament, addresses the media in Prague after being prevented from voting due to not having registered in time, Friday.


Czechs made good Friday on what was unimaginable under communist rule just 15 years ago -- choosing European Parliament representatives as sign of membership in the continent's club of democracy.

The vote was a mixed blessing for some Czechs -- an affirmation of arrival in Europe's rich and free nations tinged with worry that that very membership could reduce their nation's sovereignty.

The EU expanded to 25 nations and 450 million people when it took in the Czech Republic and seven other former Soviet bloc nations on May 1. Ireland also was voting Friday in a four-day process that will choose 732 representatives Europe-wide in four days of voting that began Thursday and running through today, with issues ranging from national sovereignty to the war on terrorism and Europe's role in Iraq.

While the European Parliament still cannot introduce legislation -- that right is reserved for the European Commission -- its powers have steadily grown to the point that it now influences all EU laws, by voting on them and amending them. It can even ask the commission to revise EU legislation, which is binding on all member states.

In the Czech Republic, candidates included former Soviet-era cosmonaut Vladimir Remek and Nora Baumberger, a porn actress who goes by the screen name Dolly Buster. Voting was spread over Friday and yesterday. The state-run CTK news agency reported turnout at only 10 percent shortly before polls closed Friday.

Vaclav Havel, the communist-era dissident who went on to become his country's first post-communist president, cast his vote in silence in Prague. Other Czechs were more vocal -- though skeptical that their votes would make a large difference.

"I'll definitely go to vote. It's important to use the chance," said Lukas Kokes, 20, a Prague university student.

But Kokes said it was unlikely that the 24 Czech deputies would be able to do anything meaningful for their constituents back home. "They can hardly do anything unless they cooperate with others," he said.

Businesswoman Vendula Dvorakova, 40 said she figures "my vote will not mean much, but this is one of the few chances to influence public affairs, so I'll vote."

The Czech Republic shook off communism in the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It and Slovakia became independent states when Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993.

Irish voters were filling 13 seats in a contest widely seen as a referendum on the waning popularity of the Fianna Fail party.

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