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A new political landscape in the Czech Republic

A new political landscape in the Czech Republic

31/05/2010 - Results

Although the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) came out ahead in the general elections that took place in the Czech Republic on 28th and 29th May winning 22.08% of the vote and 56 seats (a result that is far below that forecast in the polls), the rightwing seems to be the real winners of the election. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won 20.22% of the vote (53 seats), Tradition, Responsibility and Prosperity 09 (TOP 09), led by Karel Schwarzenberg won 16.7% of the vote (41 seats) and the Public Affairs Party (VV) led by Radek John, 10.88% (24 seats).
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) won 11.27% (26 seats). "20 years after November 1989 it is the first time that the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia did not take third place in the general elections and we are very happy," said Karel Schwarzenberg, chair of TOP09. "Beating the Communists was our secret dream," declared Miroslav Kalousek, former Christian Union-People's Democratic Party leader (KDU-CSL) and present leader of the parliamentary group TOP09.
Two parties find themselves excluded from the Chamber of Deputies: the KDU-CSL which suffered due to the emergence of TOP09 which several of its former members joined; it only won 4.39% of the vote; the Green Party (CZ), which fell victim to its internal divisions as well as having spent 3 years in government (2006-2009) during which time it did not fulfil the promises it had made; it won 2.44% of the vote. The Citizens Rights Party (SPO) founded in October 2009 by former Social Democratic Party leader (1998-2002) Milos Zeman, also failed to rise beyond the 5% threshold of votes cast which are obligatory to be represented in the Chamber of Deputies – it won 4.33% of the vote.
The leftwing (CSSD and KSCM) won 82 seats together against 118 for the right (ODS, TOP09 and Public Affairs).
Turnout rose to 62.60% i.e. 1.87 points less than that recorded during the previous general election on 2nd and 3rd June 2006. Prague, Karlovy Vary and Western Bohemia were the regions with the highest turnout as was the case 4 years ago.

The right seems to be well placed to form the next government coalition. Tradition usually has it that the President of the Republic asks the leader of the party which won the election to form a government – but this might be overturned this time. CSSD leader, Jiri Paroubek also announced that he would resign from his post within the next few days. "We cannot call it a success," he declared talking of the results achieved by his party, adding, "people have chosen the direction the Czech Republic will take and this is different from the one the CSSD was offering them. The country is moving towards a centre-right coalition." The Social Democrats have certainly suffered from the low popularity rate of former Prime Minister (2005-2006) Jiri Paroubek within the population. "The party needs a new start," declared the latter announcing his resignation, saying that former Finance Minister and present deputy chair of the party, Bohuslav Sobotka, might replace him.
Cyril Svoboda, the KDU-CSL leader, Ondrej Liska, the Green leader and Milos Zeman, the Citizens Rights Party leader, also resigned from their positions.

Petr Necas, the ODS leader indicated that the resignation of the Social Democrat leader may lead to "appeasement in the style of confrontation" in the Czech political landscape. He said he was pleased that the ODS had "a good chance of forming a coalition of budgetary responsibility, a coalition which the country needs in these difficult times, a coalition which we are ready for." "It will be good news for the Czech Republic and for its citizens," he stressed, arguing that the Czechs showed by their votes that they hope to settle the country's debt problem. "This will be the future government's key task," insisted Petr Necas. According to Jaroslav Plesl, editor of the daily Hospodarske Noviny, the fear of seeing the Czech Republic become "the Greece of Central Europe" was damaging to the CSSD which during the electoral campaign spoke in favour of a rise in public spending and social allocations. "The Greek crisis was decisive in these general elections since it encouraged the fear that the policy undertaken by the Social Democrats would transform the country into another Greece," he declared.

Undeniably the Czechs expressed their lassitude with regard to the two "main" Czech parties i.e. the CSSD and the ODS who together achieved their lowest score since 1996. "The results of these elections are a shock. It is the biggest victory for the right and a defeat for the left, mainly for the Social Democrats," declared political analyst Milan Znoj. "The Czechs showed their discontent about the heavy polarisation of the political landscape which was started in their opinion by the country's two main political parties. It is clear that voters chose to give the new parties a chance," stressed political expert and director of the New York University of Prague, Jiri Pehe. "The message of discontent voters wanted to send to the two main parties is clear. But will it provide any results? In 2006 it took 9 months to form a government. And if we have problems again in forming a coalition there will plenty of small more or less licit agreements – everything which puts the voters off," says Jan Hartl director of the pollster STEM.

Founded in June 2009, TOP 09 rallies some well known Czech personalities. The party is led by former Foreign Minister (2007-2009), Karel Schwarzenberg; Miroslav Kalousek, who was the founder and leader of the parliamentary group led the KDU-CSL between 2003-2006.
Founded in 2001 as a local group and led by former investigative journalist Radek John, Public Affairs (VV) is a less well know party. Its leader with a 61% positive opinion rate is the most popular Czech political leader according to the poll undertaken by STEM mid-April. Although its programme is not as clear as that of TOP09 (VV made the fight against the "political dinosaurs" one of the main points in its programme) the party has said that it is more interested in taking part in a rightwing government coalition that in an alliance with the parties on the left. Radek John announced his party's priority and set its conditions to take part in a government: the adoption of a real anti-corruption strategy and the transfer of 10 billion crowns of the Defence budget towards Education. "We do not want to follow the example of the "small" parties who give up their principles in exchange for ministerial posts," he declared.

The Czech Republic, a country led since 8th May 2009 by a government of experts should soon be governed by a rightwing government coalition rallying the ODS, TOP09 and probably VV led by Petr Necas, the ODS leader even though the resignation of Jiri Paroubek opens the way to other coalition possibilities such as for example a "grand" coalition to settle the public debt issue as quickly as possible. "I am almost convinced that will soon be governed by a rightwing coalition and that we shall have a government that will enjoy a sound majority for the first time since 1996. This also means that this will follow a coherent rightwing programme that will focus on budgetary savings," declared Jiri Pehe. "I really don't know which government we shall have because I have no idea what Public Affairs really is about" stresses political expert Bohumil Dolezal.

Source : Czech electoral internet site ( )
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN