Pirates riding high – but numerous electoral outcomes possible, says pundit

Ivan Bartoš, photo: Czech Pirate Party, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Is Czech politics headed for a shakeup? A new Kantar agency poll suggests the electoral coalition of the Pirate Party and the Mayors & Independents enjoy 34 percent support, far ahead of the governing ANO on 22 percent. The Pirates would currently even beat ANO alone, the survey indicates. I discussed it with political scientist Petr Just.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising.

“Maybe it is surprising how strong the Pirates are, but I wouldn’t see it as surprising that they are getting stronger.

“ANO is a governmental party. It has to take responsibility for not only the positive things they do, but also for the negative things, for the negative impacts.

“We, of course, have to admit that the way the government led by ANO is handling all the Covid response is under criticism – and it’s justified criticism on many of the issues.

“And this of course has an impact on public opinion polls.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

“If I should mention a current issue, it is definitely vaccinations: the speed of vaccinations, the rumours that there are some doses of vaccines that are stored and no-one’s using them.

“The fact that [PM] Andrej Babiš says that he is the coordinator for vaccinations, but then when it’s failing he blames the [regional] governors and the hospitals – that it’s their fault that vaccinations are going so smoothly.

“On the other hand, the Pirates, as currently the strongest opposition party, of course challenge the government and challenge the governmental response.”

You mention the vaccines. Obviously by October’s elections a lot of the Czech population could be vaccinated and the Covid situation could be, let’s hope, considerably better. But do you think Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will be worried by these polls?

“He definitely will be worried.

“And it’s pretty much obvious that from this moment he will launch a very hard, and I would say even aggressive, campaign, in order to get back support.

“Because it’s not only that the Pirates are growing, but he is losing.

“There is probably a pattern that the Pirates are actually growing at the expense of ANO.

“So Andrej Babiš will very likely launch a campaign to get the support of these people back.

“As you mention, by the time the elections are held the vaccinations will be, hopefully, in much better shape and making much better progress.

“The government’s plan is to have all the people who are willing to take the vaccine vaccinated by the summer.

“So that would give Andrej Babiš a tool for the campaign in September and the beginning of October, ahead of the elections – that he was able to get the people vaccinated and it should be his merit, and it should be a positive for how people view the government of Andrej Babiš.”

My final question: How likely do you think it is that Ivan Bartoš of the Pirate Party will be the next Czech prime minister?

Petr Just,  photo: archive of Charles University

“It’s always very risky to make any predictions like this, especially in Czech politics.

“As for now, we see that there are three main actors for the upcoming elections: the coalition of the Mayors & Independents and the Pirates; the ANO movement; and the coalition of right-wing parties that call themselves Together [Civic Democrats, TOP 09, Christian Democrats].

“In my opinion, any alliance, any governmental coalition after the elections, can be composed of any of two of these three actors.

“And I wouldn’t rule out any possibilities, despite what politicians from each of the political parties are saying now, before the elections.

“We know that there is nothing which lives a shorter life than any statements regarding who they will join, or not join, after the elections.

“So if I would answer your question based on this logic, the probability that Andrej Babiš, Ivan Bartoš, or Petr Fiala [of the Civic Democrats] will become prime minister is, in my opinion, equal: one-third.”