MPs on Tuesday voted to dissolve the lower house of Parliament for the first time in the Czech Republic’s history. With 140 votes supporting the motion lawmakers opened the door to early elections, following months of political crisis.
The dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies has opened the door to early elections, which, if polls are to be believed, will be welcomed by the majority of Czech voters exhausted by months of political crisis. On Wednesday, the Social Democrats, the Communists, 10 members of Public Affairs and all MPs for the former right-wing coalition partner TOP 09 voted in favour; the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, who fought to have the dissolution delayed, abstained. The exception was house speaker Miroslava Němcová, who voted against, arguing that the dissolution would sweep key legislation off the table, which voters would only rue later. However the majority of politicians saw the decision as the only hope of moving forward. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka:
Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK
“I think it was obvious that the political right no longer had a majority in the Chamber and the same could be said of the left when the Rusnok cabinet put together by President Zeman failed to get backing. So I think it was the responsibility of all parties in parliament to try and resolve the political crisis. The option chosen today opened the door to early elections.”
It will now be up to the president to formally confirm the decision, after which a snap election must be held within 60 days. Earlier, President Zeman indicated the dates of October 25 and 26 – days before a state holiday marking the founding of Czechoslovakia – as likely. On Friday, the president is to meet with party leaders for talks, presumably before he makes his announcement.
Already, however, campaigning is underway and over the next two months parties will try their hardest to sway voters to their side. If opinion polls are to be believed, the next Chamber (and consequently the next government) will be markedly different from the last.
For months public surveys have slated the political left will come away the biggest winners, with the Social Democrats first and the Communists coming a possible third. A strong finish for the leftists would mean a return to power after six years for the Social Democrats and arguably a stronger role for the Communist Party, shunned after 1989 for failing to break with its past. The Communists could tacitly support a Social Democrat minority government and together with a left-dominated Senate and a president who once led the Social Democratic Party, the future could look very different.