Czech Christian Democrats at a crossroads

Cyril Svoboda, photo: CTK

The recent Czech general elections saw voters swing away from the established parties in favour of newcomers. One of the traditional parties that got left out in the cold were the Christian Democrats, who received just 4.4 percent of the vote, falling short of the 5 percent threshold required for seats in Parliament. Radio Prague spoke to political analyst Vít Hloušek from Brno’s Masaryk University, and asked him what led to the party’s decline.

“The position of the Christian Democrats has been complicated since the mid 1990s, because this party is based on some very specific, traditional electoral background without being capable of increasing influence over the new cohorts, or groups of voters. So it is a territorially limited political party, and one which is not attractive enough for a majority of Czech voters.”

Cyril Svoboda  (left) stepped down as Christian Democrats' leader on June 6 2010,  photo: CTK
Do you see any opportunities here? Can they somehow revamp their programme to appeal to the young, urban, liberal voters so that they don’t have to rely on the traditional Moravian Catholic vote?

“I’m afraid their situation is very complicated; some of the possible new streams they could use to improve their programme and to appeal to different groups of voters has been already taken by the newly-formed party TOP 09, led by Miroslav Kalousek and Karel Schwarzenberg. They tried to present themselves as the most conservative party, and at the same time, the party supports liberal market economy. This is a combination that is much more attractive than the traditional centre-based position of the Christian Democrats.

“Looking at the party elites, I’m sceptical as well because I don’t see any new person, any new potential way forward for the Christian Democrats. They are now in a very complicated position.”

Do you think that the traditional space in the middle, between right- and left-wing, do you think this will disappear from Czech politics?

Vít Hloušek
“It will definitely not disappear but its impact might shift in the future toward the regional level – to some regions like southern Moravia with a large amount of Catholic-oriented population. But the position of the political centre has been very risky in the Czech post-1989 party politics because both Social and Civic Democrats have been able to some extent to attract these voters. At the same time, several parties are competing for this position – the Christian Democrats, the Green Party – which has not been successful but may recover in the future – and last but not least, there are some liberal voters who have been attracted by other smaller, liberal parties in the last few years.”