The civic democrat party win the general elections but is still unable to form a majority.

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

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5 June 2006
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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

The main opposition party, the civic democrat party came out ahead in the czech general elections that took place on 2nd and 3rd June. The party won 35.37% of the vote (an increase of 10.87 points in comparison with the last election on 14th and 15th June 2002) and is ahead of the social democrat party (cssd) that won 32.32% of the vote, recording an increase of two points. The communist party of bohemia and moravia (kscm) came third with 12.81% of the vote suffering a loss of 5.69 points. The christian democrat union-people's party (KDU-CSL) won 7.22% (four years ago the party stood alongside the freedom union-democrat union, us-deu) ; the greens (sz) with 6.29% (+ 3,89 points) have made an historic entry into the chamber of representatives, becoming the first ecologist party of central europe to have won seats in parliament.

The civic democrat party will have 81 seats (+ 23), the social democrats 74 (+ 4), the communist party of bohemia and moravia 26 (- 15), the christian democrat union-people's party 13 and the greens 6 (+ 6).

The Czech republic seems finally to have put an end to the constant drop in the participation rate in the general elections, ongoing since 1989 since 64.47% of the electorate turned out to vote, a higher rate (by 6.47 points) than the one recorded in the 2002 election. On the very first day of voting, around 40% of the registered electorate had fulfilled their duty as citizens and this figure reached up to 60% in southern moravia. In some polling stations more people had voted in the first half day than in two entire days of voting in the last general elections.

This participation rate benefited the two main political parties, the social democrat party and the civic democrat party. Citizens living abroad were also numerous in voting with over 90% in the usa, 82% in canada and 66% in australia.

The initial results declared unequivocal victory for the civic democrat party. As counting continued the difference between the main opposition party and the ruling social democrat party closed up until there were only 3.5 points and 11 seats between them. Although the civic demcorat party is the country's leading party there is no clear majority in terms of seats after these elections. Right and left would be on an equal footing if on one side we grouped together the civic democrat party, the christian democrat union-people's party and the greens – a group that is far from being confirmed by the leaders of these parties particularly the greens – and on the other side the social democrat party and the communist party of bohemia and moravia, also an alliance which is just as uncertain. The position adopted by the greens is still unknown. The ecologists were divided on the eve of the elections on the possible post-electoral alliances that it might make and several of its sympathisers, claiming to be on the left and in favour of an alliance with the social democrat party, expressed themselves quite clearly.

Civic democrat leader Mirek Topolanek, did however recall that his party had "achieved its best score since 1992". The liberal party's result is one of the highest achieved by a party in the general elections in the Czech republic. "We are prepared to form a non-socialist coalition: before the election we expressed our desire to negotiate with the greens and the christian democrats", he emphasised. "I did not think that the social democrats would win so many votes and that it would lie below the 30% mark. I am surprised that corruption and the relations that some social democrat members of government have with the mafia did not disturb a higher proportion of the population" stressed vice president of the opposition party, Miroslava Nemcova.

According to exit polls those who voted first voted in favour of the civic democrat party.

"A week ago a high participation rate would have played in favour of the social democrat party. But the bio-fuel scandal might have influenced the undecided and reversed the trend", wrote political analyst tomas lebeda on 3rd June in the daily lidove noviny. The analyst was referring to the declarations made on 29th May by colonel Jan Kubice, head of a police unit fighting against organised crime; he claimed before the defence committee at the chamber of representatives that pressure had been placed on the unit by some politicians. The policeman directly accused prime minister Jiri Paroubek, and home minister frantisek bublan, whom he says wanted to interfere in police inquiries into murder and corruption involving members of their party; he mentioned an affair of bribery in the granting of permits for the production of bio-fuel. "I believe that organised crime has penetrated the organisation of the state", he declared, mentioning notably the investigation into the assassination of a businessman, Frantisek Mrazek.

Jiri Paroubek qualified Jan Kubice as a "liar undertaking political gangster tactics", and maintained that the accusations had "fundamentally influenced the electorate's decision". Accusing the media of "working for the civic democrat party", the prime minister declared: "We have been exposed to unbelievable pressure, comparable with that of the totalitarian regime before 1989; I have to say that democracy in this country has suffered a blow similar to the communist putsch of 1948. The only difference is that it is now blue totalitarianism (the colour adopted by the civic democrat party) that is threatening us". On speaking of a government "entangled in corruption" Mirek Topolanek maintained that this affair was "the most serious threat to the stability and security of the state since 1989", he accused the social democrat party of "taking part in organised crime including planned murders".

The outgoing prime minister refused to acknowledge the civic democrat party's victory. "You are surely expecting me to acknowledge electoral defeat and to shake my rival's hand. I will not do this", he maintained also accusing the opposition of "unprecedented manipulation". "We must realise that a year ago the social democrat party was credited with some 10% of the voting intention and from this point of view the result which is over 30% is a success after eight years in power. My estimations lay at around 30%. It is a show of appreciation on the part of the electorate of the work undertaken by the social democrats and I thank them for their confidence", declared Jiri Paroubek on the announcement of the results. "The electorate must choose whether they want the Czech republic to become the greatest laboratory in central europe where economic experiments that have failed elsewhere in the world will be undertaken or whether they want a programme leading them to the level of western europe in the next ten years", he repeated during his electoral campaign.

"For the social democrats any result over 30% is one they have only dreamt of in comparison with the election period of the european parliament when the party only won 9% of the vote (8.78%) and the collapse it experienced 15 months ago, it is the party's resurrection", added deputy prime minister in charge of economy, Jiri Havel.

The greens, who benefited from the support of Vaclav Havel, former president of the republic (1993-2003), who called for an "alternative vote", are the grand winners of this election. Credited in November last with 2% of the vote they have made their entry into parliament and are the only party to be happy with the results. "It is an historic moment", said the party's vice president, Dana Kuchtova. The party's leader, Martin Bursik, promised "to provide new ideas and a new style to politics".

Finally the leader of the communist party of bohemia and moravia, Vojtech Filip, who had declared during the campaign that 20% of the vote seemed to be a "realistic objective" and that his party "would win new seats, otherwise he would give up his role within the party"? simply declared,"we were expecting a better result".

"It is obvious that our citizens do not want the development started over the last few years", stressed the president of the republic and honorary president of the civic democrat party, Vaclav Klaus during a press conference; he also said that he would be asking the leader of the civic democrat party to form the next government. Although until now Mirek Topolanek had excluded the formation of a grand coalition with the social democrats he maintained during a tv debate that he would start negotiations "with an open mind". "Negotiations are ahead of us; as the winner of the elections it is up to me to avoid a political crisis. In the days to come we shall endeavour to speak with our partners and I have not even excluded the social democrats from these negotiations", he declared.

For his part outgoing prime minister Jiri Paroubek maintained that he wanted his party to be part of the opposition. "Tomorrow the party's management is to meet and I shall openly say that I recommend the party to go over to the opposition". When questioned about the possibility of the social democrat party forming a grand coalition with the civic democrat party, Jiri Paroubek answered carefully in a single phrase: "let's see their programme". He then added, "I led government for thirteen months, it was a period of stability, my interest is in that this stability continues". The outgoing prime minister implicitly declared on sunday that he might try to form a minority government. However on monday he seemed to have given up the idea of challenging the ballot count before the supreme administrative court as he had announced on saturday.

For its part the communist party of bohemia and moravia suggested the formation of a "government of national entente". The civic democrat party, the christian democrat party-people's party and the greens have always said that they would refuse to take part in a government in which the communists were represented. "It is our task to support the social democrats in a government that might be a minority one", suggested mp jaromir kohlicek.

Finally the ecologist leader Martin Bursik said that he "did not believe it pertinent to speak of early elections just a day after the election marked by a participation rate of around 65%" and the head of the christian democrat union-people's party, Miroslav Kalousek, said that "it is the parties' duty to try and find a solution".

"There is now total deadlock. All the doors are closed except for one. A grand coalition between the civic democrat party and the social democrat party appears to be the only solution for a stable government. If it does not happen we undoubtedly will have early elections", declared political analyst jiri pehe, director of the university of new york in prague. The grand coalition would, according to petr dufek, financial analyst at the merchant bank csob, "be better from a market point of view than a government that included the communists". "both parties have similar interests: continuing with privatisation, simplifying the fiscal system and reducing taxation on companies", he continued. Pavel Saradin, political analyst at the university of palacky oulomouc maintains that this election result "is probably the worst scenario", and maintains that "unless parties make an about turn it might be necessary to reshuffle the cards and organise another election".

In explanation of the most recent developments in the political arena some analysts suggest that after eight years in power the social democrats are attached to their positions and their advantages. Some of the party's members have been involved in some corruption scandals others fear to be so in the near future. However the political differences between the social democrat party and the civic democrat party, who are also impatient to take power again, would be so small that in order to stand out one from the other party members would be obliged to adopt dirty, libellous tactics, as seen by the numerous incidents that interspersed the electoral campaign, one of the most aggressive that has ever taken place in the Czech republic.

"The civic democrats say they are liberals but in power they are conservative and populist. The social democrats for their part are very liberal in economic terms. The country is doing well, the economy is prosperous and this in spite of some catastrophic political figures", summarises analyst jiri pehe. In his opinion whilst an opposition bench developed in poland and hungary in the 1980's dissidence was more limited in Czechoslovakia where the political class included a majority of inexperienced politicians, who were certainly pragmatic but also without any great conviction.

After poland on 23rd september last the Czech republic is the second eu25 state to accord the majority of its votes to a eurosceptic party. Europe, which was an almost absent subject during the electoral campaign, does however divide the two main parties. The social democrat party is in favour of greater european integration whilst the civic democrat party prefers a europe that will develop at various speeds. Both parties only agree on the need to reform the common agricultural policy.

Civic democrat leader Mirek Topolanek, has therefore led his party to its fifth consecutive electoral victory since the local elections on 25th-26th October and 1st and 2nd 2002, the european elections on 13th June 2004, the regional elections on 5th and 6th November 2004 and the senatorial elections on 5th and 6th and 12th-13th November 2004. The latest success might however be more difficult to be established than the previous ones. For the time being post-electoral parties keep on negotiating but no majority government has yet been formed. The czech constitution does not stipulate any specific length of time for the formation of a government after the general elections. It also provides the president of the republic with the power to convene early elections if parliament refuses its confidence to three successive governments.

General election results 2nd and 3rd June 2006 – Czech republic

Participation rate: 64.47%

Source: the prague monitor

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