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October 16, 2021

 

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Czech elections won by the Spolu (Together) coalition, who could form a majority with the Pirates-STAN coalition, communists out after 100 years in the national legislature

10.10.2021 8:30
Petr Fiala (chair of the Civic Democratic Party - ODS, in the center), Markéta Pekarová Adamová (chair of TOP 09, left) and Marian Jurečka (chair of the Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL, right) are running as the Spolu (Together) coalition in the 2021 elections to the Czech lower house. (PHOTO: Spolu 21)
Petr Fiala (chair of the Civic Democratic Party - ODS, in the center), Markéta Pekarová Adamová (chair of TOP 09, left) and Marian Jurečka (chair of the Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL, right) are running as the Spolu (Together) coalition in the 2021 elections to the Czech lower house. (PHOTO: Spolu 21)

The Spolu (Together) coalition of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) is celebrating their election victory today after signing a memorandum last night on creating a majority Government together with the coalition of the Pirates and the Mayors and Independents (STAN). The winning coalitions have asked Czech President Miloš Zeman to entrust Petr Fiala, the ODS chair, with holding negotiations to form the next cabinet. 

The coalitions will be negotiating the Government only with each other and will not be entering into negotiations with any other movements or parties, Fiala said. The previously governing ANO movement has come in a close second, while the Pirates-STAN coalition placed third ahead of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement. 

Other parties will not be entering the Chamber of Deputies, according to the Czech News Agency (ČTK). The first-place and third-place coalitions have enough votes combined to form a majority in the lower house.

Those parties that had been the partners of ANO for the last four years, the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), who were in the Government, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), who agreed to support the minority Government, have both come in under the 5 % limit needed to retain their seats. The ČSSD chair Jan Hamáček has already announced his resignation. 

Voter turnout was around 65.5 %, more than the last elections to the lower house, when turnout was 60.84 %. Fiala said the election results are unambiguous. 

The ODS chair believes Czech President Miloš Zeman cannot ignore the coalitions' majority. According to the Governor of South Bohemia and head of the Association of Regional Authorities, Martin Kuba (ODS), forming the next Government will ask big compromises from all involved. 

The next administration will have to address the country's debt, auto industry problems with the chip shortage, and rising electricity prices. Kuba said these elections were a referendum on whether outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) should continue to govern. 

According to the results published so far, Vít Rakušan, the chair of the Mayors and Independents (STAN) party, which ran in coalition with the Pirates, won more preferential votes than Babiš did. The Governor of the Moravian-Silesian Region, Ivo Vondrák (ANO), told journalists yesterday that he would welcome an opportunity for the ANO movement to form the next Government with the Spolu coalition. 

The right to form the next Government, in Vondrák's view, should fall to the party that has been victorious even if the two coalitions that ran also have a majority together in the Chamber of Deputies. According to outgoing Czech Vice Prime Minister Karel Havlíček (ANO), the ANO movement will want to meet with each party separately about the post-election arrangements. 

Havlíček believes the coalitions' close majority does not afford them too many prospects. Vondrák said ANO's committee would be meeting to put together their post-election negotiating team. 

The outgoing Vice PM said the post-election developments will also depend on the Czech President, who previously announced that he would be giving an opportunity to form a Government to the chair of the party that wins, not to a coalition. The ČSSD, which Zeman once chaired and was a member of during his own premiership from 1998 to 2002, will not be in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in the history of an independent Czech Republic. 

According to ČTK, the ČSSD received 4.68 % of the vote. In 2017 the ČSSD won 7.27 % of the vote and 15 seats. 

Currently the ČSSD club has just 14 MPs in the lower house after Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna crossed over to the SPD last year. Hamáček will resign from the post of party chair due to the election results. 

The outgoing Interior Minister told reporters at the House of the People (Lidový dům) in Prague, where the ČSSD campaign staff was headquartered, that he will settle his accounts and end his time as chair at the next meeting of the party's governing body, which the leadership has scheduled for 25 October. He said he hopes the ČSSD will get a second wind and return to the Chamber of Deputies four years from now. 

As for the communists, they have no seats in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time since the party was born in 1921. According to ČTK, the communists got 3.68 % of the vote. 

In 2017 the communsits won 7.76 % of the vote and 15 seats. The party celebrated its 100th anniversary this year and has never not been in the Chamber of Deputies, but has always been in opposition during the last 30 years of democratic rule. 

The outgoing minority Government of ANO and the ČSSD had been supported by the KSČM. As for the opposition SPD movement, its chair Tomio Okamura claims to have maintained their position despite more competition from other nationalist (or in his terms, "patriotic") parties. 

Okamura believes the post-election negotiations will take a long time and the SPD is prepared for them, he told journalists at the Duo Hotel in Prague, where the SPD election staff was headquartered. Turnout this year was around 65.5 %; the highest-ever turnout in the country's history was during the elections to the lower house of the Czech Parliament in 1998, when 74 % of voters cast ballots. 

Four years ago almost 61 % of eligible voters cast their ballots in the elections to the lower house. That turnout was higher than in 2013, but at the same time it was the third-lowest rate of participation since the Czech Republic became an independent country in 1993. 

The least amount of interest in the elections to the lower house was shown in 2002, when 58 % of the voters cast ballots. The highest voter turnout was during the very first elections to the lower house after the birth of an independent Czech Republic, when more than 76 % of voters turned out in 1996 to choose their national legislators.

If Zeman decides to entrust Babiš with putting together the Government even though the two coalitions of democratically-profiled parties have won a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the Million Moments for Democracy movement says it will be time for action. Benjamin Roll, chair of the organization, gave that opinion in an interview with ČTK. 

Roll said he did not know whether that action would mean demonstrations or some other tactic. During the last four years of convening assemblies, Million Moments for Democracy has been calling on the democratic opposition parties to collaborate with each other to defeat ANO. 

More than 250 000 people turned out on the Letná Plain in Prague to support that demand in 2019. Czech Police reported that the casting of ballots on Friday and Saturday involved dozens of violations of anti-pandemic measures and that they have received two allegations of possible vote-buying, one from the Ostrava area and one from Slaný

An anonymous bomb threat was made in Brno, but the police did not discover anything explosive at the polling place that had supposedly been targeted. Police announced that all was clear through Twitter and a regional police spokesperson confirmed the news as well. 

The two-day elections to the Chamber of Deputies ended at 14:00 yesterday. Analysts contacted by ČTK agreed that a new Government will most probably be formed from the two coalitions in Parliament over time and is likely to lead to a more accountable budgetary policy. 

Given that the coalitions' parties are so fragmented, analysts do not anticipate any more fundamental reforms. In their view the election results will not influence the Czech crown's development on exchange markets.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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elections 2021, poslanec, Poslanecká sněmovna, prezident



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