Civic Democratic Party
Published 5th December, 2012
The Civic Democratic Party or ODS was founded on 21st April 1991 as the result of a split of the Civic Forum which had been a broad church party formed in 1989 after the fall of communism. The party describes itself as Centre-right and believes in Conservatism, Economic Liberalism and Soft-Euroscepticism.
The Civic Forum had dominated the 1990 general election but it held too many people from the right and left for it to remain a viable party. The ODS broke away as the centre-right wing and in 1992 it joined forces with the Christian Democratic Party (KDS) and together they won 76 seats in the 200 seat parliament. The two parties joined with the Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL) to form a new government and presided over the so called Velvet Divorce which split Czech lands and Slovakia into two states.
In November 1995 the two parties, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Christian Democratic Party (KDS) decided to unite into one party, although the union was weakened by some of its parliamentary members joining the Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party instead.
The ODS lost seats in the 1996 election, dropping to 68 seats but nevertheless Václav Klaus its leader retained the premiership in a continuation of the coalition. In 1998, after a series of scandals and defections the party dropped to 63 seats and went into opposition, although it signed the ‘Opposition Agreement’ which gave tacit support to the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) minority government.
In 2002 the ODS dropped further to 58 seats in the 200 seat Chamber of Deputies and for the first time was truly in opposition. In 2003, Václav Klaus won the presidential election on the third ballot in a parliamentary vote he went on to win a second term in 2008.
In 2006 the ODS was back in government – just. It won 80 of the 200 seats but managed just another 19 seats in partnership with the Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL) and Green Party (SZ), two short of a majority. However, they were rescued when two ČSSD members abstained during a confidence vote and were able to form a minority government.
In 2010 the party dropped to 53 seats and came second to the ČSSD but was able to form a coalition government with the support of the TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV). The minority parties have proved problematic either through corruption scandals or very public splits but the government manages to survive – just.
The Civic Democratic Party is a member of the International Democrat Union and the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. In the European Parliament where it has nine of the 22 national seats it is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group.