Two biggest Czech parties head to head in election campaign

Four days before the Czech parliamentary elections (14-15 June), the governing Social Democrats, headed by Vladimir Spidla, are back at the top of opinion polls with 28 per cent of the votes. The Conservative Civic Democratic Party, led by Vaclav Klaus, would finish second winning 24 per cent of votes.

The Conservatives (ODS) are expected to win in Prague, Central Bohemia and East Bohemia. The Social Democrats (CSSD) are likely to win in the regions facing a decline of heavy industry and high unemployment rate.

Two other parties – the Coalition of Christian Democrats and the liberal Union of Freedom and Communists – would end up with 16 and 12 per cent respectively. No other party is expected to reach the 5 per cent treshold, required to enter the Parliament.

The electoral turnout is expected to be traditionally high and should exceed 70 per cent.

This year’s electoral campaign has been surprisingly calm and “boring”, as some observers labelled it. The topics raised in the campaign and arguments used by key political actors resemble the classical Left-Right divide and debates, which focus primarily on such issues as the role of the state, tackling the public debt, the budgetary deficit, the taxation level or tackling excessive bureaucratisation.

The only exception was the issue of the Benes Decrees, which all political parties refused to repeal and negotiate with the Sudeten Germans. The hot debate on the Decrees resulted in the competition between the parliamentary parties on who is best at defending national interests. Consequently, the Lower House of Parliament approved with unprecedented unanimity a political declaration confirming the status quo.

 

The ODSis the most outspoken defender of less state involvement in the economy and society in general. Among its major plans is a general linear income tax of 15 per cent, the decrease of bureaucracy, especially with regard to SMEs, and a firm defense of national interests. One of its main slogans is "The ODS votes for the European Union", which has been watered down by serious reservations towards the EU, such as "No direct rule from Brussels".

The Social Democratshave repeatedly called for a welfare state, characterized by solidarity, higher degree of GDP redistribution through state agencies, higher social spending and social welfare. Their political programme with regard to the EU copies the model of western Social Democrats.

The Coalition, originally consisting of four smaller parties, lost more than half of its support compared to January and February 2002, when it led in the opinion polls. This center-right coalition is perceived as a reaction to the policies and behaviour of the ODS. It tries to present itself as a centre-right alternative to the Civic Democrats.

The Communists(KSCM) mainly appeal to the socially disadvantaged clusters of the society. They are ambiguous towards EU accession. On the one hand, the Communists formally support the Czech Republic's accession to the Union, but on the other hand, they often reject integration at electoral rallies.

The CSSD Chairman, Vladimir Spidla, again ruled out a post-electoral coalition with the ODS during the Sunday TV debate with ODS Chairman, Vaclav Klaus. Accord ing to the opinion polls, the government could then only be formed by the CSSD and the Coalition. The other alternative is a minority government. Each of the other three political groups excludes the possibility of inviting the Communists into the government.

It should be also borne in mind that the electoral results might differ significantly from the final opinion polls as this was the case in two last parliamentary elections. A high percentage of voters traditionally change their preferences at the very last moment (21 per cent of voters in 1998).

 

(Article written in collaboration with EURACTIV's partnerIntegrace)

On 14-15 June, Czech voters will elect 200 deputies to the lower house of the Czech Parliament for a four-year mandate under a proportional voting system. A record 29 political parties registered to participate in the elections.

For the last four years, the Czech Republic was governed by a coalition of the Social Democratic Party, the biggest parliamentary party, and the Civic Democratic Party, the second biggest parliamentary party. The two parties co-operate on the basis of an agreement on "support without participation". The Civic Democratic Party leader, Vaclav Klaus, became the Speaker of the Parliament under this agreement.

 

The result of the parliamentary election will have an impact on the election of a new President of State in January 2003, who will replace the current President, Vaclav Havel. The President is elected by Parliament under the Czech constitution.

 

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.