Analyst: Christian Democrats could be better match for Mayors group than previous partners TOP 09

Pavel Bělobrádek, photo: Filip Jandourek, ČRo

An outline plan just agreed by the Christian Democrats and the Mayors and Independents group to form an alliance ahead of parliamentary elections this autumn could represent a significant shift in Czech politics. The Christian Democrats had seemed a diminished force but re-entered the lower house and joined a coalition government in 2013, while the Mayors were previously allied to the right-wing TOP 09. What will it mean if the two groupings do hammer out a final agreement and contest the elections together? That’s a question I put to political scientist Jiří Pehe.

“I think that it is a good move. The fact that the Christian Democrats and the Mayors and Independents seem to be willing to cooperate is one of the few good developments on the Czech political scene.

“That’s simply because we have very few political movements or parties that would anchor the political centre of the Czech political system.

“We have a few traditional parties. The Social Democrats seem to be the only one that is still surviving the pressure from various populist and anti-system parties.

“So having a political party or a coalition such as this one that would uphold traditional values and at the same time be centrist is a good development.”

Pavel Bělobrádek, the head of the Christian Democrats, says that with the Mayors they can “play in the first division, not just in the local league”. But do you expect them to be a significant force as an alliance?

“I think this could be an alliance that could succeed, simply because the Christian Democrats and the Mayors could have the kind of synergy – and the effect associated with that synergy – that the previous alliance of the Mayors and TOP 09 didn’t have.

“TOP 09 was positioned on the Czech political spectrum too much to the right.

“It was a club much more than a political party, with no regional structure and organisations.

Pavel Bělobrádek,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
“Whereas the Christian Democrats are a traditional political party with a very impressive network of local organisations and also an understandable ideology.

“So the fact that they would ally themselves with the Mayors, who are not ideologically profiled but also have a good network on the local level, could actually have an effect that could put those two subjects over the 10 percent which is necessary for a coalition to pass, if they want to win any seats in Parliament.”

If we could speak just about the Christian Democrats, they weren’t in great shape a few years ago and weren’t even in the last parliament. How do you think they have performed since getting back into the Chamber of Deputies and becoming part of the coalition government in 2013?

“I think that the Christian Democrats are an example of a political party that in many respects can really rely on its structures and organisation.

“Even when a party like this disappears from the Parliament for a short period of time it is able to come back when it elects a new leadership and has new and interesting people in its upper ranks.

“This is what the Christian Democrats were actually able to do. They elected new leaders. They worked quite hard on changing their image in large cities, among younger voters.

“All of this combined helped them to come back. And I think that within the current coalition they have done quite well, also because the traditional right-of-centre parties, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09, have not done very well since 2013, when they left the government.

“So the Christian Democrats have been able to capitalise on this and actually attract quite a few voters who are looking for a conservative party in the political centre.”