Civic Democrats pledge euro adoption opt out, referendum, as they launch European Parliament campaign

Petr Fiala, Jan Zahradil, photo: CTK

With three months to go to polling the last major Czech political party, the Civic Democrats, today announced its list of candidates and priorities for European Parliaments elections. As the biggest winners last time round and in the wake of disastrous parliamentary elections last October, the ODS has a lot at stake in the May contest.

Photo: European Commission
One British prime minister quipped that a week is a long time in politics. On that basis, five years appears an eternity with regard to Czech politics and the European Parliament.

When the last elections to the glass and steel palace of the European Parliament in Brussels took place in June 2009, traditional Czech left and right wing parties, the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats comfortably dominated the political scene. And in the vote they divided most of the election spoils. The Civic Democrats grabbed nine of the 22 seats with just under a third of votes and the Social Democrats took seven with just under a quarter. The Communists filled four seats and the Christian Democrats two.

Back then TOP 09 was just a sparkle in its parents’ eyes, Public Affairs still had to flourish and flounder, and ANO was just a common Czech word in capital letters. The upcoming European vote will be the first nationwide test of the Civic Democrats since the party’s miserable 7.7 percent showing in October’s lower house elections. New leader Petr Fiala stressed the high stakes faced when he unveiled its list of candidates in Prague on Tuesday.

“We are in a very difficult political situation. I think we have visibly changed the Civic Democrats since the party congress. We are back again. We are trying to win back the trust of our former voters and doing everything we can to do that. But of course, we need a certain amount of time and we are not certain to what extent we can convince all our former voters that the Civic Democrats is the true right-wing political force which they can believe in.”

Petr Fiala,  Jan Zahradil,  photo: CTK
Veteran Civic Democrat MEP and election campaign leader Jan Zahradil says the party will seek to match the score of other main parties at the elections to confirm that it is on the way back.

And the Civic Democrats signalled on Tuesday they intend to mark themselves out from the three broadly pro-European government coalition parties, the Social Democrats, ANO, and the Christian Democrats, and their former centre-right partner, TOP 09, by taking a tough euro sceptical line.

Their flagship election policy will be a pledge to keep the Czech crown amid increasing indications that preparations are being to switch to the single currency euro in perhaps five or six years’ time. The party says it will press for a Czech exemption from eventual euro adoption and seek a referendum on the issue be put to the Czech public.

The party will also seek to end the monthly parliament shuttle to Strasbourg and pledges to oppose European climate change and energy legislation that they claim could increase the price of Czech electricity. In line with their rivals, the Civic Democrats have turned to former non-party personalities to widen their election appeal. In their case, outgoing Czech National

Bank board member Eva Zamrazilová is third on the party list. Whether the mix of old political hands and new faces and stark policy choices on offer can save the Civic Democrats in one of their last bastions should be known soon after the last European polling booths close on May 25.