Poll suggests Communists would not get into lower house for first time

Vojtěch Filip, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio

For the first time in its history the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has polled below the minimum 5 percent threshold necessary to get into the Chamber of Deputies. While some commentators have called this a sign that they are headed for the dustbin of history, party chairman Vojtěch Filip says that the survey, conducted by the Kantar agency in August, is unreliable. I asked political commentator Jiří Pehe what he makes of the poll.

Vojtěch Filip,  photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
“The previous polls by Kantar were not unreliable. They proved to be quite correct, so I would not agree with this argument. At the same time it is necessary to say that this is just one poll and usually it takes two, three or even more opinion polls to show a trend.”

Do you think that the Communist Party’s decision to support the minority government led by Andrej Babiš has had any impact on their polling?

“At the very least, I think we can certainly see that the Communist Party has not improved in the polls since they started supporting Mr. Babiš.

“I think that for many voters and members of the Communist Party it is very difficult to understand what the Communist Party gets out of supporting the second richest man in the country.

“As some of the opinion polls suggest, not a small amount of Communist voters has actually left the party to vote for Mr. Babiš, simply because he has been able to offer generous social benefits and increased pensions.

“At the same time, the more radical, ideological members have stayed with the Communist Party. I would assume that those people may not be entirely happy with the fact that their party supports a billionaire, a man that a few decades ago would have been called a class enemy.”

What about the increasing spectrum of anti-establishment parties? A new player on this scene Tricolour, which is led by former president Václav Klaus’ son, is polling at 3.5 percent. Are these parties taking away votes from the Communists?

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Jana Trpišovská,  Czech Radio
“If we take a look at this one particular poll, it seems obvious that on the one hand support for the Communist Party has dropped by two percent and at the same time the support for Tricolour has risen. Therefore it would seem logical to assume that Tricolour is stealing their voters.

“It would not be that surprising actually, because the Communists have become a very conservative, anti-European party over the past 20 years.

“It may still be a party with leftist accents, but a lot of its voters and members are basically saying and believing in the same things internationally that we can hear from Tricolour.”

Would the exit of the Communists from the chamber of deputies shake up the Czech political scene, or would parties such as SPD and Tricolour simply replace them?

“I think that the Communist Party has played both a negative and a positive role in Czech politics.

“In a positive sense it has played a sort of sanitary subject role, because it was attracting voters who would otherwise vote for extreme right or populist parties.

“The party’s history, which led to the fact that the Communists were not accepted as a coalition member, meant that its votes were only usable on a parliamentary level. They represented no power threat in Czech politics as such, because they would never be represented in the government.

Václav Klaus Jr.,  photo: ČTK/Kateřina Šulová
“The negative impact of this party’s exit from the Czech Parliament is that it would probably open the door to parties such as Tricolour and others. These new parties basically say what the Communists have been saying for many years when it comes to views on Europe and international affairs, but they represent the views of the extreme right.

“The departure of the Communists would therefore probably shift Czech politics to the extreme right.

“On the other hand, another thing that could happen is that this exodus of Communist voters to Tricolour will be too small and it will end up resulting in neither the Communists nor the Tricolour getting into parliament.

“However, if the Communist Party drops below 5 percent it will mean one certain change in Czech politics. Namely, that Mr. Babiš would lose a party, which will tolerate his government if he needs it again.”