Political analyst Jiri Pehe on election outcome

Jiri Pehe

Who will rule the Czech Republic over the next four years? In recent days political analysts have been speculating on the pros and cons of various coalition scenarios. On Saturday, political analyst Jiri Pehe came to Radio Prague's studio to comment on the outcome of the elections:

So, Mr. Pehe how do you see the result and what are the most likely coalition scenarios shaping up?

"Well, at this point it seems to me that the most likely scenario is the one that everyone talked about before the elections - a coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Green Party, providing that the Green party makes it to Parliament in the end because now it is perilously close to the threshold of 5 percent. It seems to me that this is the most likely scenario and in that case of course we will have a very unstable government because the Green party is actually two parties in one and it will be very difficult for this party to be a stable partner in such a coalition."

The Civic Democratic Party has won the elections promising change - would it be able to deliver on its promises in such a set up? I'm talking about the challenges ahead: pension reform, tax reform, health care reform and so on.

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
"I think that anyone who follows politics and especially Czech politics must know that the nature of Czech politics is such that in the end we have coalition governments or weak minority governments and that the policy of the government will be basically centrist. It was naïve to expect that there would be a radical shift to the right or a radical shift to the left. In the end coalition politics require compromises and this is what will happen again so some of the extreme proposals by the Civic Democrats such as a flat tax and a complete overhaul of the social welfare system will not be implemented. There will be reforms of course but those reforms will not in the end be too different from reforms or changes that the Social Democrats would have introduced."

What if these power brokering talks break down? What is the alternative?

"Well, I would argue that at this point, we are indeed very close to what everyone talked about before the elections and that is the Grand Coalition. It is quite possible that the Civic Democrats will not be able to strike a deal with the Green Party and that means, arithmetically, that the only other possibility for a majority coalition is a Grand Coalition, and that in fact may not be the worst solution. We have talked about reforms and indeed the Czech Republic needs them pensions, health care and so on and should those reforms last, be permanent, they need to be negotiated across the political centre. If such reforms are introduced just by one side of the political spectrum - for example a centre-right government as we see in Slovakia, they will not last and the new government will try to change it. We can see now in Slovakia the same kind of rhetoric - the left that is leading in opinion polls is promising to change everything that was achieved by the previous government."

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
Well, we have seen it working in Germany even after an aggressive election campaign. But leaving aside the aggressive election campaign that we have seen and the mud slinging between the two parties, their policy programmes are worlds apart. Can they possibly find common ground for such reforms?

"Well, I would argue that their programmes are not so far apart. One of the Czech dailies recently carried an interesting analysis in which they compared the programmes of various parties and in fact they found the most common points in the programmes of the Social Democratic Party in the Civic Democratic Party. That is because if we take off the extremes from both programmes, then they find a lot of common points in the centre. So, I don't think that it will be that difficult to form a Grand Coalition and I don't think it will be that difficult to present a common programme. What is more difficult is the nature of Czech politics, the fact that Czech politics is a very personal business and that politicians do not like each other and cannot work with each other - the kind of political culture that exists in Germany is not present here. So, what may be the biggest obstacle is not the programmes but simply the people who lead these parties."