Political scientist: PM Babiš is on a downward trend that he will find it hard to change

Andrej Babiš, photo: Andrej Babiš / Facebook

The Czech public is increasingly dissatisfied with the way in which the government is handling the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic. A recent poll by Behavio showed that close to 70 percent of Czechs say the government failed in its response to the pandemic or have serious reservations to the steps taken. Now a poll by Kantar has seen the trust rating of the two government parties slump, with the prime minister’s ANO party getting 24.5 percent support and the Social Democrats failing to cross the necessary 5 percent threshold needed to win seats in the lower house. So is the coronavirus crisis changing the Czech political landscape – and will the ruling parties pay the ultimate price? Political scientist Jiří Pehe:  

“I think that the government underestimated the second wave of the corona crisis in the summer, when everyone knew – experts were talking about it openly – that there would be a second wave.  Yet the Czech government behaved as if we had won the war with the coronavirus and as if we are OK with relaxed measures in the fall. On top of that there were a number of chaotic decisions, the government was creating new institutions which not always communicated properly with each other and this chaos contributed to the severity of the second wave in the Czech Republic, but also to the fall in the preferences of the government parties.

Who will benefit from the public mood? Who is on their way up?

Jiří Pehe, photo: Jana Trpišovská / Czech Radio

“Clearly the Pirates are benefitting from ANO’s fall from grace – there are studies that show that about thirty percent of voters who abandoned ANO , who abandoned Babiš, have moved to the electorate of the Pirates Party, the rest dispersed and they support various smaller parties. I think we also have to take into account the results of the recent regional and Senate elections in which the Pirates and the Mayors and Independents did extremely well. I think people have realized that we are not stuck with ANO, that there are alternatives, and that may be the most important news in Czech politics.”

Is the trend permanent or will it change once the crisis is over?

“I think it is permanent. We are seeing a trend that started even before the regional elections. This is the third or fourth poll that shows that ANO is in decline and I think that Mr. Babiš does not have many tools to put things right, so to speak.  He will certainly be faced with this health crisis for several more months - we have not reached the peak yet – and that will be extremely difficult for him and his image. Also, he does not have the money to pay for the economic damages –after the government decided to spend some 500 billion crowns during the first wave- so I think that Babiš is facing a downward trend which he will find it very difficult to change.