Czechs take stock of groundbreaking Polish elections

By: Rob Cameron

Well the results of the weekend's groundbreaking elections in Poland have certainly not gone unnoticed here in the Czech Republic, with the stunning collapse of the right-wing Solidarity government and the rather hollow victory for the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance. And of course the strong showing by two populist and deeply Eurosceptic parties is being seen as a warning for the enlargement of the European Union. But there are other lessons to be drawn: Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Czech Republic's main right-wing opposition party, says the Polish elections were a clear vote against political instability - the sort of political instability which he says also plagues the Czech Republic. Commentator Vaclav Zak agrees that the Czech system needs to be changed:

Vaclav Zak:"I think he's right. All constitutional systems of Western democracies after the second world war were changed to provide for stable government. Unfortunately we didn't do that enough in our constitution, and because the Communist Party in the Czech Republic is anti-system, nobody will make a coalition with them. So we have an unstable political system because only right-wing parties are able to make strong governments. When a leftist party wins an election, they are unable to form a government. So I think we really need to change the political system somehow, and the proposal of Mr Klaus and [the Czech Prime Minister] Milos Zeman was reasonable."

Radio Prague: Of course Mr Zeman's Social Democrats are gloating at the results across the border in Poland. Both Prime Minister Zeman and the leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, have said this is in fact a warning to the Czech people - "See what happens when you vote for the right, your country falls apart and you end up with political crisis. Vote for the left, it makes sense." What do you make of that?

VZ:"Well I think they want to gain some prestige from the results of the Polish elections, but I think it has no real reason."

RP: The European Union was very much on the agenda in the elections in Poland. There were surprise gains for populist parties, parties which are against European Union membership. It now means that one third of the seats in the Polish lower house are occupied by Eurosceptic parties, and some are saying that a similar situation could arise in the Czech Republic. Do you think it could?

VZ:"I think that it's really a very important point. You see, people are now very aware, maybe much more aware of the costs of European integration. And in the Polish case, because of the agriculture sector, it's a very, very sensitive question, and I think it's a dangerous development that people are starting to be very sceptical about joining the EU. I think something similar can happen here, but it's worse in our country, because the Eurosceptic card is played by Mr Klaus's highly popular Civic Democrats. So we'll have an even more complicated situation than in Poland, if the Civic Democrats continue in this political course."

RP: Because Euroscepticism in the Czech Republic is also very much present in mainstream political parties?