Parties gearing up for early elections

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek

Czech President Miloš Zeman is due to formally dissolve the lower house of Parliament on August 28, with an early general election likely to take place by the end of October. That gives political parties two months to reach their voters. Some of them are wasting no time and have already begun campaigning.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
President Zeman is to meet with leaders of parties represented in the lower house on Friday for consultations on a suitable election date which could be set for October 25 and 26. With only two months left before the polls, Czechs are in for a hectic election campaign which started immediately after MPs voted to dissolve the lower house earlier this week. I asked political marketing expert Anna Matušková of Prague’s Charles University about how the campaign will be different.

“First of all, if you have only 60 days to run a proper election campaign, you have to skip all the data and data collection processes because you won’t have time to base your strategic decisions on polling. So the campaign will be a little different. There will of course be messages and programmes. You can run a campaign but it will be based more on instinct than on data.”

After seven years of centre-right governments, the left-wing Social Democrats are the hot favourites. Party chair Bohuslav Sobotka said Social Democrats would aim to collect a third of the votes cast which would give them a chance to form their own government with the support of other left-wing parties including the Communists and possibly the president’s own political grouping, the Citizens’ Rights Party – Zemanites. Anna Matušková says left-wing parties will probably highlight economic issues in their campaigns.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“I think the successful party will focus on what people feel is the biggest problem right now which is unemployment. So if somebody runs with promises of creating jobs or securing existing jobs – that will probably be a rational topic, and a valid one in view of the recent situation in the Czech Republic.

“Another topic, and one that will probably be raised by right-wing parties, will be a clash of values. They will try to present themselves as someone who can secure the right direction for the country against the Social Democrats, the Communists, and of course the current president.”

The country’s right-wing parties, meanwhile, seem to be on the ropes. Polls suggest the Civic Democrats, who have dominated this part of the political spectrum in the past, might have trouble winning any seats at all. Also, the Civic Democrats are yet to pick their new leader as Petr Nečas stepped down both as party chair and the prime minister after his government collapsed in June.

Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
The vacancy could be filled by TOP 09, a conservative group headed by former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek. They will probably present themselves as guardians of parliamentary democracy against the efforts of President Zeman to extend his powers at the expense of Parliament.

There are also a number of parties striving to enter the lower house for the first time, or those attempting a comeback. The former include ANO, a populist group formed by multi-billionaire Andrej Babiš, the nationalist Sovereignty, and some others; among the latter are the Christian Democrats and the Greens.