The US midterm elections to be held in less than three weeks are attracting attention from media worldwide, as they are expected to determine the fate of final two years of Obama’s administration. And the grassroots Tea Party movement, which has strongly altered the rather stable US political climate, will be a key factor in them.
Now, in spite of their much lower profile from the global point of view, the Czech municipal and Senate elections to be held on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 October 2010 are likely to prove equally or even more important for the Czech government and the radical economic reforms it plans.
Czech voters will elect one third of the 81 Senators and the representatives of more than 6,000 municipalities.
And, as in the US, the elections will take place in a changed political environment that emerged from the political earthquake of the end-May 2010 legislative election. The election was marked by the success of two new players: the conservative TOP 09 and populist Public Affairs. Both parties now form part of the coalition led by the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS), controlling 119 out of 200 seats in the Lower Chamber of the Czech parliament.
In addition, voters in May 2010 used their preferential votes to get rid of some controversial political figures, with other important politicians resigning after the election.
Read more: Czech Socialist leader resigns after winning election
Now, the upcoming municipal and Senate elections can further re-draw the political map of the Czech Republic. Or not. It all depends on Czech voters and their appetite for further political change.
After the Pyrrhic victory in the May 2010 election and the resignation of its controversial leader, Jiří Paroubek, the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) is looking for a new direction and a new charismatic leader. But even though the Social Democrats can benefit from the fact that many Czechs oppose the economic reforms planned by the government, the main opposition party is not likely to achieve victories in larger Czech cities, including Prague.
Civic Democratic Party
The massive electoral campaign of the largest government party led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas focuses on the same topics as it did before the May 2010 election. Generally, the party says that the Czech Republic must curb its budget deficit and sovereign debt in order to avoid the “Greek scenario”.
As a government party that is also in power in many Czech municipalities including Prague, the Civic Democrats need to do a positive campaign, stressing the successes of the government and the town halls. Which is always more difficult than merely criticizing the party in power.
In addition, voters in Prague and other larger cities might be already fed up with ever-present political advertisement.
For these reasons, the ODS will probably lose the post of Prague mayor to the TOP 09, its coalition partner popular especially among young people in large cities. However, the ODS will retain the position of Prague’s strongest political party, controlling most of Prague’s town halls.
For the two newbies of the Czech politics, the conservative TOP 09 and centrist Public Affairs, the municipal elections will be an event of the highest importance. The elections will show whether they are already rooted in the Czech politics, or their success in May 2010 was just a strange occurrence that is not to be repeated.
In spite of the popularity of the TOP 09 in Prague and other large cities, the ODS will remain the Czech Republic’s main right-wing party. However, the TOP 09’s candidate Zdeněk Tůma, whose managerial skills outweighs his lack of charisma, has a high chance of becoming Prague mayor. Which will surely be a reason to celebrate for the TOP 09.
The Public Affairs is a political project constructed specifically for the upcoming municipal elections. The party’s shocking success in the May 2010 election and its four ministers in the government was just a surprising by-product. This also means that any result in the municipal elections will be a disappointment in comparison with the legislative election.
But generally, the party will strengthen and stabilize its position in the Czech politics. Ironically, the party’s success in May 2010 was based on the harsh critique of the same establishment.
Communists, Christian Democrats and Greens
The Communist Party will strengthen its position, exploiting the weakness of the Social Democrats, the anti-government and anti-reform sentiment among some sectors of the society, and also the lower electoral turn-out.
The Christian Democratic Party will continue to lose its position, even in its former stronghold in Southern Moravia.
With traditional “green” topics – environmental friendly transport, bicycling infrastructure, etc. – being effectively hi-jacked by other parties, the Green party finds itself in a very unfortunate position, especially after its electoral defeat in May. Prague will remain the party’s “stronghold” though – it will be represented in many of Prague’s town halls and the Prague city hall.