I’m taking a Czech Politics class this semester, even though it barely fits into my schedule, because I wanted to take it during the elections. And I’m so glad I did. The elections happened last Friday and Saturday, and I was able to understand the results because of the class I’m in. Giving the results is probably a bit silly, because it requires a bit of knowledge of Czech politics, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it makes me happy.
The current government is, to say the least, a bit of a mess. I’m not going to go through all the history, but basically the current president (the first directly elected president in Czech history) has a brilliant political mind but is also a drunk. As in, he is literally intoxicated for the vast majority of his public appearances and meetings with other officials.
The previous parliament couldn’t form an effective governing coalition, so Zeman dissolved it after he was elected. He then appointed a Prime Minister from his own party, which was not the party in power in the parliament, basically creating a puppet cabinet. (Note that historically, the president held very little power in the Republic.) Zeman is a member of the left (not at all the same as “the left” in America) and the two most populous parties in the parliament were from the right. The election of Zeman is widely seen as a revolt against the failures of the right.
The elections that just happened were parliamentary elections because of the dissolution of parliament. As expected, the Christian Democrats won the most seats in Parliament. But that is the end of what was normal. The Christian Democrats are typically considered the strongest leftist party, and even when the right wins they usually garner 20% of the vote. This election, they got 20% of the vote. As the strongest party.
The next biggest party was the ANO party, with 16.5%. “Ano” in Czech means “yes,” and the party basically says yes to everything and everybody. This is the first election cycle the party has ever existed; it was founded last year by a Czech billionaire Andrej Babis, and is known for how eclectic its members are. They vary in profession, political background (although most of them have very little political experience), and political views and goals. A lot of people don’t know how the party will stay a single party, because they ran basically as a coalition of businessmen who say they can fix politics just like they fixed their businesses.
The next largest party, with 15% of the vote, is the communists. The communists and Christian Democrats have often created coalitions with each other, but these coalitions have been dominated by the Christian Democrats. In this parliament, however, they don’t have enough power to lead a coalition single-handedly; they will need not only the communists but also ANO to create a government, and the two smaller parties will have a lot more power than usually. Interestingly, the communists won Anna’s Mom’s village (48-42-….) and probably a good number of villages around the country. A lot of people, especially younger people, are looking at the communist era with rose colored glasses, especially because of the economic difficulties the Czech Republic has had since the 2008 financial crisis. That leads a lot of other people to worry about what will happen if the communists continue to gain power.
Other results of consequence includes the ODS party, which used to be a super strong party on the right. They, in fact, were the coalition government leaders in the last parliament. Their support, usually between 20 and 30% dropped to just 10% in this election. They still did better than the other party they led the coalition with though; the other party didn’t even read the 5% threshold for representation in parliament.
The last surprising result is Okamura’s party. Okamura is a half Japanese, half Czech businessman who ran on an anti-immigration platform. He is against immigration, against asylum, and strongly anti-Roma. I’m guessing it was this stance, combined with the recent news from Greece about the young girl presumably kidnapped by the Roma, that got him nearly 7% of the vote.
All in all, how the coalition gets created in this new parliament will be interesting, to say the least. With 7 parties in parliament, all between 6.5% and 20%, there is definitely not a mandate or even a clear coalition to be found. It makes the recent coalition bargaining in Germany look like a piece of cake. Once again, I’m glad I’m taking the Czech Politics class now, while all this insanity is going on around me.