30/10/2006 - Results
The Czechs were called to ballot on 20th and 21st and 27th and 28th October 2006 to renew a third of their senators, i.e. 27 of the 81 members of the Upper Chamber, which is re-elected every two years. In the Czech Republic the members of the Senate are elected for 6 years by a uninominal majority election in two rounds.
204 candidates including a great number of artists (actor Tomas Töpfer for the ODS and singer Jiri Dedecek for the Greens) and sports personalities (former champion Imrich Bugar for the CSSD, former cross-country ski champion Kveta Jeriova-Peckova for the European Democrats, SNK-ED), representing 30 political parties were running in this election. The Civic Democrat Party (ODS) defended 10 seats versus one only for the Social Democrat Party (CSSD) and 7 for the Christian Democrat Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL).
A particular feature of these senatorial elections: Pavla Topolankova, wife of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (ODS), was standing in the constituency of Ostrava (North Moravia) in the North East of the country under the banner of Politika 21, a party founded by MEP Jana Bobosikova, which is opposed to the Civic Democrat Party.
On 20th and 21st October the Czechs also elected the 62,483 representatives of their 6,248 town councils. The Civic Democrat Party (ODS) won this election with 36.2% of the vote versus 16.63% for the Social Democrat Party (CSSD) and 11.71% for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM). In Prague, held by the Civic Democrat Party, the ODS achieved an "historic victory", according to the mayor Pavel Bem who won an absolute majority of 54.43% of the vote. Pavel Bem stood against popular former Education minister Petra Buzkova (CSSD) who had announced in June that she was withdrawing from politics before changing her mind.
The Civic Democrat Party easily won the first round on 20th and 21st October in 26 of 27 constituencies; the ODS candidate failed in Zlin (Southern Moravia) winning 22.0% of the vote. It came ahead of the Social Democrat Party which won 14.50% of the vote and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), 12%. No candidate however was elected in the first round.
On 27th and 28th October the candidates of the Civic Democrat Party stood against 11 Social Democrats, 6 Christian Democrats, 3 Communists and 5 independents. Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek appealed to all of the other parties to come together with his party to prevent victory on the part of the Civic Democrat Party in the second round. "We are ready to support any candidate who is not from the Civic Democrat Party," he declared. But this was to no avail.
The liberal party finally won in 14of the 27 constituencies. The Social Democrat Party won 6 seats, the Christian Democrat Union-People's Party, 4 and the independent candidates, 3. "The result is fantastic," declared Mirek Topolanek when the results were announced. After these senatorial elections the Civic Democrat Party now holds the majority in the Upper Chamber with 41 senators, versus 12 Social Democrats, 10 from the Christian Democrat-People's Party and 2 from the Communist Party. The ODS is therefore the first party to control the Senate since its creation in 1996.
The participation rate rose to 42.09% in the first round and 20.7% in the second.
Since the last general elections on 2nd and 3rd June the Czech Republic has been in political stalemate. Indeed although the Civic Democrat Party won the elections with 35.37% of the vote and 81 seats, ahead of the Social Democrat Party (32.32%, 74 seats), the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (12.81%, 26 seats), the Christian Democrat Union People's Party (7.22%, 13 seats) and the Greens (6.29%, 6 seats), it did not manage to form a government coalition with a majority in Parliament.
The two coalitions, ODS/KDU-CSL/Greens and CSSD/KSCM, have exactly the same number of seats (100). Appointed Prime Minister on 4th September the leader of the Civic Democrat Party, Mirek Topolanek had to resign on 11th October after only 37 days in office, a record in the country's history. The Prime Minister did not succeed in gaining Parliament's confidence (96 votes in favour of his government 99 against). The government coalition that he was leading rallied 15 members, 9 from the Civic Democrat Party and 6 independent experts (including Alexander Vondra, former anti-communist dissident and ambassador in the USA from 1997-2001, and Jiri Sedivy, professor at the European Centre for Security Studies). During the presentation of his team the ODS leaders said that his main objective was to lead the country towards early general elections. "Neil Armstrong only stayed a few hours on the moon, and he left his mark," he answered those who forecast he would be in office but for a short period.
On 11th October the President of the Republic, Vaclav Klaus ODS asked Mirek Topolanek to remain in his function as Prime Minister to manage ongoing matters. The Constitution does not include any option for the dissolution of Parliament and therefore the possibility to convene early elections, after the failure of three attempts to form a government. Vaclav Klaus refused to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats remembering the rejection of his party by the electorate during the general elections on 14th and 15th June 2002 after accepting a "stability agreement" in July 1998 with the Social Democrat Party. In his opinion the Civic Democrat Party accepted the government formed by the CSSD in exchange for the attribution of positions within the institutions.
More negotiations with the aim of forming a government are to due to start on 30th October but the President of the Republic seems to have given up all hope of in coming to a political agreement with the other four parties represented in Parliament and seems increasingly to be moving towards holding early elections. "We would all like a strong government which is operational and worthy of confidence. Given the post electoral calculations all the possibilities of creating a government able to govern have been looked into. As a result I think that the most direct way of settling the situation is to hold early elections," declared Vaclav Klaus recalling that four governments had resigned since his election as Head of State on 28th February 2003. "Of these four resignations only one was what I might call "normal" which says a lot about our country and the political situation," he stressed.
Political analyst and director of the New University in Prague, Jiri Pehe recalled before the election "the importance of the senatorial elections lies in the influence they will have on the results of the future negotiations between the political parties."
The Civic Democrat Party's result in the senatorial elections might enable the President of the Republic to exclude the Social Democrat Party once and for all from the next government coalition.