Czech regional elections confirm steady slide of traditional left, rise of the Pirates

Photo: ČTK / Václav Šálek

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party won this weekend’s regional assembly elections, as expected, and even did slightly better than in 2016 – despite criticism about the government’s failure to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections, triggering a new State of Emergency that goes into effect on Monday.

Photo: ČTK / Jaroslav Ožana

The bigger story is the dramatic gains of the opposition Pirate Party (which placed second overall with 12 percent of the vote but picked up over scores more seats than four years ago) and the continuing slide of the traditional left.

ANO’s junior coalition party, the centre-left Social Democrats (ČSSD) and the unreformed Communist Party (KSČM), which supports Babiš’s government in exchange for policy concessions, each won about 5 percent of the vote – the threshold at the national level for entering parliament.

At the same time, although Andrej Babiš became the first prime minister to win the regional elections during his term of office, in national polls ANO has regularly enjoyed the support of 30 percent or more of likely voters.

Petr Honzejk, photo: Jana Přinosilová, Czech Radio

Furthermore, although ANO placed first in 10 out of 13 regions, one more than in 2016, it again did not win enough in most to secure the majority of regional governorships, Hospodářské noviny commentator Petr Honzejk told Czech Radio.

“It is certain only where ANO won by a significant margin, i.e. in the Moravian-Silesian and Ústí regions. It looks like the other parties will form coalitions and the ANO movement will be side-lined.

“The second, and in my opinion even more important, thing is that the government coalition failed. ANO won with 22 percent, but Social Democrats poled at slightly above 5 percent and the Communists even slightly below that threshold.

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK / Michaela Říhová

“That’s 33 percent, in effect, supporting this government, and a warning signal for Andrej Babiš. He won, but his allies lost, which could be a problem for the 2021 parliamentary elections.”

Local administrations hold far less power than the central cabinet in Prague, but the regional ballot this weekend – about a year before general elections – is an important measure of voter support.

ANO did best in the Ústí nad Labem, Karlovy Vary and Moravia-Silesia regions, where it has won by more than 10 percentage points. It had narrow victories in the regions of Pilsen and South Bohemia, and a razor-thin lead in Zlín, besting the KDU-ČSL by 1 percentage point. As for the other regions, in Hradec Králové the coalition of ODS and STAN won. STAN also emerged victorious in North Bohemia and Central Bohemia. In regions that ANO won, other parties are forming coalitions to deny them the reins of power.

Results of the regional assembly elections, source: ČT24

Official results of the regional assembly elections in terms of the distribution of votes will not be announced until Tuesday, but the corresponding allocation of seats should not change significantly from current projections.

Senate elections: 26 of 27 contests go to second round

Incumbent senator Zbyněk Linhart (STAN), representing Děčín, was the only candidate to succeed in the first round of Senate elections, in which a third of the 81 seats in the upper house of Parliament were open.

In the other 26 contests, the winner will be determined in a second round (run-off) vote next weekend. STAN has 10 candidates still in the running, as does ANO, while the KDU-ČSL have 7. By comparison, the ČSSD – which started with 10 incumbents in the running – only has 3 left in the race. Whatever the second-round results, opposition parties are certain to retain a majority.

Miroslav Němcová, photo: ČTK / Michal Kamaryt

Among the more closely watched Senate run-off races will be for Prague mandates. Former ambassador Michael Žantovský – backed by ODS, STAN and TOP 09 – will face Václav Láska (Senator 21), after a close first round race, while former speaker of the lower house Miroslava Němcová (ODS), who fell just shy of getting 50 percent of the vote, faces incumbent Václav Hampl (independent), a former Charles University rector, who got 20 percent.