Analyst Petr Just: early elections in play but not a sure thing

Photo: Filip Jandourek, ČRo

In a week and a half's time, Czech MPs will vote on whether to dissolve the lower house with the aim of setting up early elections. Four parties capable of putting together the constitutional majority required have - at least on paper – agreed that early elections are the next step. But will the vote in the end be in favour? And what can we expect from President Miloš Zeman?

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
I spoke to political analyst Petr Just and asked him whether he thought early elections were certain.

“I don’t think we know for sure. Even majorities declared weeks in advance have been shown to fall apart when it comes to the actual vote. And on Friday [since changed by MPs to August 20 - ed. note] we can’t know for certain which way it will go. The second factor is President Zeman. We can’t be certain he will act immediately if the lower house dissolves itself. While the Constitution says he has to act, it doesn’t say when.”

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
I was under the impression that the president was required to act quickly given the elections must be held within 60 days. I thought his step was a formality...

“Well it is and it should be. But given how Miloš Zeman has wielded power as president so far, I don’t think we can take it for granted. That, and the question of whether the parties stick to their promise next Friday and vote in favour, remains open. We’ll only know a little more then.”

Three of the parties backing early elections were in the recent opposition and one – TOP 09 – was a coalition partner in the last government. Curiously, the Civic Democrats are absent – they are still weighing their stance on the matter... Do you think that is significant? Some observers say that early elections are not to that party’s advantage.

“That is definitely the case: of all the parties the Civic Democrats currently stand to lose the most compared to the last election in 2010. The party is currently weakened and that has strengthened the strength of the other dominant party on the political right, TOP 09. TOP 09 is benefitting and that is why they are in favour of early elections. Even if they are not saying it openly, they are competing for the same voters as the Civic Democrats and could emerge as the strongest party on the political right.”

What kind of campaign do you think we can expect from TOP 09 and, for example, from a party like Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites? That is the small party founded in the president’s name which is seen as having a good chance at increasing its influence.

Petr Just | Photo: Charles University
“TOP 09 has already declared that it’s major aim now is to challenge Mr Zeman and the approach he has taken – as president – to the parties, to the government and to the parliamentary system. I think it will be a very anti-Zeman campaign which will continue in a similar vein to the second round of this year’s presidential elections when Karel Schwarzenberg faced off against Mr Zeman. Paradoxically, the biggest clash might not be between the two biggest parties, the Social and Civic Democrats, but between the Zemanite Party and TOP 09.