Czech elections: Anti-Babiš coalitions victorious, Social Democrats and Communists out of lower-house
In a surprising result, the opposition SPOLU coalition received the most votes in the elections into the Czech Parliament’s lower-house – the Chamber of Deputies. The ruling ANO party came in second by just a few tenths of a percent, but still has the most seats. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats and Communists will not have seats in the lower-house for the first time since the foundation of the Czech Republic. The question of who will be asked to form a government now lies with President Zeman.
SPOLU, a centre-right coalition composed of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the TOP 09 party, has won the 2021 election into the Chamber of Deputies by a razor-thin margin, with 27.79 percent of the vote. The victory only became evident after over 90 percent of the ballots were counted.
The lead enjoyed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party grew slimmer and slimmer as vote counts from larger cities started coming in. SPOLU coalition leader Petr Fiala (Civic Democrats), said that “change is here” in his subsequent address in a visibly cheerful election HQ.
However, due to SPOLU being a coalition, the strongest individual party in the Czech Chamber of Deputies remains ANO with 27.12 percent of the vote. They took 72 seats compared to the 34 held by the Civic Democrats, 23 by the Christian Democrats and 14 by TOP 09.
The coalition of the Pirates and Mayors and Independents (STAN) placed third, with 15.62 percent of the vote. A disappointing result for the coalition, perhaps, given that they led the polls even ahead of the ANO party earlier this year.
It was an especially disappointing result for the Pirate Party when the percentage is converted into actual seats. Due to preferential voting, they will have just four seats in the lower house, after having had 22 for the past four years. Meanwhile, the Mayors and Independents (STAN) – the major benefactors of preferential voting this year – will see their representation grow from 6 to 33 seats.
Asked about whether the results are a fiasco for the Pirates, Chairman Ivan Bartoš said that the party’s number of deputies has indeed slimmed down considerably, a consequence, he claimed in a subsequent press conference, of a pre-election disinformation campaign against his party.
The populist, anti-immigration Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party received 9.56 percent of the vote, less than in the previous election of 2017, but, with the loss of just two seats, enough to claim success.
In a subsequent press conference, SPD chairman Tomio Okamura said that there will be many opportunities to advocate for his party's programme due to the fractured nature of the two coalitions’ tight majority. He said that the SPD result could be seen as a success, because, he claimed, ANO had tried to take SPD voters ahead of the election by shifting to an anti-immigration programme similar to that of his party.
While there were significant ups and downs in the results of the top four voting blocs, perhaps the most disastrous result came for the two parties traditionally representing the Czech political left.
The Social Democrats, who were a coalition partner of ANO since 2014, scored just 4.6 percent of the vote meaning that they will not be represented in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time since the Czech Republic was established in 1993.
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, which provided support for the minority government of Andrej Babiš, saw an even worse result – just 3.6 percent of the vote. It is expected that both parties will now pass through a period of serious introspection and possible intra-party clashes on policy. The existence that different minded factions are at edge in both parties has been apparent in recent years.
The Oath party, the anti-corruption movement established by former high-ranking police officer Robert Šlachta ahead of the elections, received more votes than either the Social Democrats or the Communists, but just below the 5 percent threshold to take seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
The formation of former President Václav Klaus’ son – Tricolour – which ran in coalition with the libertarian Svobodní and centre-right Freeholder Party of the Czech Republic, had high hopes of getting into Parliament, but ended up receiving 2.7 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Volný blok, the formation of the current member of Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Volný – who had previously been a member of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party – scored just 1.3 percent.
Analysts have been highlighting that the key question now revolves around who will be asked to form a government by President Miloš Zeman, the constitutional authority who commissions a party leader to form a government.
The president, who had to vote from his Lány residency and cancelled his televised speech on Sunday due to health reasons, has said in the past that he will name the leader of the strongest individual party as prime minister. This would mean Andrej Babiš, the leader of ANO. The are due to meet on Sunday.