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Senatorial elections in Czechia, 25th -26th October & 1st -2nd November 2002

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

-

25 October 2002
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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

Senatorial elections take place in Czechia every two years.

One third of the Upper House is then renewed. The first senatorial election took place in 1996. A third of the senators were chosen by the drawing of lots for a period of two years, the second third for four years and the last third for six years. In 1998 one third of the senators were renewed. From the next elections on the length of a senatorial mandate will be six years. In this election 27 seats were to be filled.

The senatorial elections did not succeed in mobilising many Czech voters, only 24% of them went to vote in the first round that was held on 25th and 26th October; 30% turned out for the second round a week later. 167 candidates (of which 156 were put forward by a political movement along with 11 independents) stood in 27 electoral constituencies.

The Civic Democrat Party (ODS) were the election victors taking nine seats, that is four more than in the previous Assembly. The Social Democrat Party (CSSD) won seven seats, the Christian Democrat Union (KDU) and the Union of Liberty (US) won one seat each respectively. The nine other seats were taken by independent candidates that were not represented by the traditional political parties.

In spite of the lack of enthusiasm that these elections aroused amongst the electorate (according to the opinion polls, most Czechs do not see the point in having the Senate) they were particularly important since they are just three months before Czechia's presidential election (Vaclav Havel's second mandate expires on 2nd February 2003 and he cannot stand again).

The country's President is in fact elected by indirect vote by all the members in the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. The Social Democrat Party that is in power with a centrist coalition only enjoys a narrow majority in the Chamber (one single seat). In order to ensure a majority in the Senate the movements in the present government coalition had to win 16 of the 27 constituencies, but in the end they only managed to win half of these. With the election of a new Head of State just around the corner, the Civic Democrat Party's success provides a new bias to the ongoing struggle between the different parties.

For the time being Vaclav Klaus, the ODS leader and Czechia's Prime Minister between 1993 -1997, is the only candidate acknowledged as successor to Vaclav Havel. The opposition leader would leave the presidency of his party in December in order to dedicate himself to his presidential campaign.

The Czech Senate is a "Chamber for Thought" mainly responsible for examining the terms on which the Chamber of Representatives adopts laws. In October 2001 the Senators put forward a project aiming to extend the Senates competencies. The project plans that the nominations for Governor of the Central Bank and the President of the Constitutional Court made by the President of the Republic be submitted to the Senate for agreement beforehand. The Upper Chamber would also like to be granted the responsibility of government when the President of the Republic is on holiday (at present it falls on the Prime Minister to assume this task). This reform project remains unheeded for the time being.

Simultaneously during this senatorial election the Czechs also took part in local elections on 1st and 2nd November. Nearly half of the electorate turned out and voted in independent candidates as well as regional movements and small parties who won approximately 60% of the vote overall. Amongst the parliamentary movements, the Civic Democrat Party (ODS) again also won the best result with 9% of the votes, with victory in Prague and in a great number of other major towns.

Finally regional elections, the first of their kind were held in the capital Prague, an administratively independent region. The first regional elections ever were held across the whole of the country two years ago.

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