Czechs start voting today for a new lower house
The Czech Republic is finalising a period of political turmoil today and tomorrow as it holds elections for the 200 seat Chamber of Deputies, the lower house. There are around 8.4 million eligible voters choosing from 24 political parties with voting taking place between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. today and 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow local time.
The turmoil started on 17th June when Prime Minister Petr Nečas of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) was forced to resign over corruption allegations. A caretaker government was appointed by President Miloš Zeman led by Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok but then lost a vote of confidence on 7th August forcing it to resign a week later.
On 20th August parliament voted to dissolve itself and on 28th August the president agreed to fresh elections seven months earlier than planned.
In the 2010 general election the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) won 56 seats but was unable to form a government. It was left to the number two party, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) with 53 seats to form a coalition with TOP 09 with 41 seats and Public Affairs with 24 seats.
The most recent opinion polls suggest that the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) will win the election with a slightly higher percentage of the poll at around 23.8%. However, a month ago the ČSSD were on 33%.
The big losers will be the former ruling party, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) which has plunged in the polls from 20.22% at the 2010 election to 7.5% support in the latest Sanep poll. Some analysts are predicting that the ODS may not reach the 5% threshold required for representation in parliament.
The far left and centre left are expected to do well today; the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) is expected to improve on its 26 seats won in 2010 with a 5.6% rise according to the opinion polls.
The centrist Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL) is also expected to do a little better with a 1.3% rise in the opinion polls since 2010.
TOP09 has dropped from 11.9% to 4.8% and Dawn of Direct Democracy (UPD) which has, in effect taken over from Public Affairs (with many members defecting to the new party founded in May 2013) which is not standing in the election on 5.3%. Public Affairs had taken 10.88% of the vote in 2010.
A new party, founded in 2011, the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) is expected to enter parliament with an 11.6% standing in the polls at present (although some analysts are giving them as much as 16% support). This is the party to watch. Electors are tired of the old parties and want to vote for something fresh and ANO appears to have been taking votes from the left and right although its political stance is centre-right.
After the election the Social Democrats are likely to be in the best position to form a government but are unlikely to be keen to form a coalition with the Communists. That means that a strong showing for the ANO could lead them into a coalition with the Social Democrats – neither side has ruled out the idea. Nevertheless a third party is likely to be needed to secure a majority and that could cause problems, with an opportunity opening up for the Communists.
The parties will have a month after the election to form a government.