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Czech EP elections over, participation around 25 percents

Prague, 6.6.2009 19:15, (ROMEA)

The second Czech elections to the European Parliament ended today. Voters selected 22 MEPs, but winners will not be known until late Sunday night, when results will be tallied.

The most recent research prior to the elections indicated Czechs would only choose candidates from four of the 32 parties running: ODS, ČSSD, KSČM and KDU-ČSL. Research by the STEM and SC&C companies for Czech Television predicated an ODS victory of around 30 % of the vote, with ČSSD receiving around 25 %. The Communists were predicted to receive around 13 % of the vote and KDU-ČSL at least 6 %.

The research showed that other groups would not exceed the 5 % threshold needed to win a seat at the EP. For example, the Green Party made it just over that limit in only two polls.

If these election predictions hold, the SNK-ED party and Independents movement will lose their EP seats. Current Czech MEPs Jana Hybášková, Jana Bobošíková and Vladimír Železný, who have run again for various new groups – the European Democratic Party and the coalition of Sovereignty and – would therefore not be re-seated. Nevertheless, these groups and another four are predicted to achieve more than the 1 % necessary to guarantee them the CZK 30 state support contribution per vote.

Czechs will have to wait for real results until late Sunday night. In most of the other Member States, these elections will be held on the last day in the week. Tallying will begin on Sunday at 22:00.

Participation in this year’s EP elections will evidently be lower than pre-election research suggested. According to research conducted by STEM and SC&C at the end of May for Czech Television, 31 % of people said they definitely intended to vote. However, according to unofficial estimates, only 25 % of people turned out.

"Declared participation in the EP elections remains high, but there was a similar declaration prior to the historically first EP elections here in 2004, and actual turnout was just 28 %," warned STEM earlier this week. STEM and SC&C said around 60 % of respondents claimed they might head to the polls; SC&C estimated participation at 40 %.

Political scientist Bořivoj Hnízdo of Charles University labeled those estimates as exaggerated. Speaking on today’s broadcast of “Václav Moravec’s Questions”, he said the key to low voter turnout “could be played and was played” by the mutually antagonistic election campaigns of ODS and ČSSD, in which national topics dominated, as well as the doubts cast on the significance of the EP elections by Czech President Václav Klaus.

Hnízdo says voters are aware that most EU affairs are negotiated outside of the EP, which is currently dominated by the European Socialists and People’s Parties factions. This is why there is apathy among EU voters. "It is as if the big parties said: Voters, don’t worry about it, we will advocate for your interests somehow, we don’t even need elections to do it. That, I believe, is a factor that undercuts the legitimacy of the EP,“ Hnízdo said.

According to STEM research from the end of last week, more than two-fifths of Czech citizens believe Czech national interests are threatened by the EU. "However, 70 % of the adult Czech population expresses agreement with Czech EU membership,” STEM reports.SC&C says three-fifths of citizens would welcome it if the political parties published the name of their preferred candidate for Commissioner and his DG as part of their election campaigns. Out of the dozens of candidates on offer for this role, Jan Švejnar won with 21 % support for taking over the Social Affairs DG after Vladimír Špidla (ČSSD), followed by Pavel Telička and Karel Schwarzenberg.

Only one-fifth of respondents said Špidla had been a good Commissioner and 12 % said he should continue in office. Only one-tenth of respondents would like to see ODS chair Mirek Topolánek become Commissioner, while support for ČSSD chair Jiří Paroubek in that role was not determined by SC&C.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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