Preferential votes turn party ballots upside down
In the Czech general elections, voters shook up the political scene by turning away from the major parties and supporting newcomers. But the change did not stop there: in a new phenomenon of Czech politics, thousands of preferential votes sent many of the old, familiar faces in the lower house home, to be replaced by outsiders from the bottom of party’s ballots.
The headquarters of the recently formed conservative party TOP 09 echoed with cheers as the general election results came in on Saturday afternoon. With 17 percent of the vote, the party benefited from a swing of voters from some of the established parties in favour of newcomers.
“At the very first moment, it was a big shock for me because I had not expected it in my wildest dreams. It never occurred to me it could happen. I did not feel much else besides shock. But now I can say I am beginning to look forward to new experiences, and the new job.”
The man who popularized preferential voting is the Czech-born, Sweden-based scientist František Janouch, who founded an initiative called Defenestration 2010. He says he got the idea when he saw the disillusionment of people in the Czech Republic – and that he’s happy it worked so well.
“We ‘circled out’ – that’s now a new expression in the Czech Republic – several politicians who had been in Parliament for 15 or 20 years. This was certainly successful, and it created a precedent for the next elections. Politicians had been used to having a permanent seat in Parliament or the government. Now they see they can be easily ‘circled out’ of political life.”