Pundit: Czech voters are giving the government a second chance

The weekend municipal and Senate elections took place in an atmosphere of growing concern about soaring energy costs, inflation and the global security situation, raising fears that this might fuel nationalist and extremist tendencies. I asked commentator Jiří Pehe whether the election results gave any indication this could be happening.

“Well, we have seen a certain rise in support for the populist ANO party of Andrej Babiš and Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy, so one could argue that, yes, the crisis has helped these political movements, but at the same time their rise has not been as significant as many predicted. So it seems that in the end, Czech voters are still giving the government a second chance and certainly the elections were not a referendum –to use Andrej Babiš’ vocabulary -that would indicate that people want to replace the government.”

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Tomáš Roček,  Czech Radio

If there was a message in these elections to the government –what was it?

“I think the message was “ Do something, be more decisive, act faster” and so on. But it also said “we are giving you a second chance” because the victory of the opposition parties was not overwhelming, it was mediocre and so the elections did not turn out to be a referendum on the government as Mr. Babiš wanted them to be.”

All the “protest votes” went to ANO and the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party – what is happening to the Czech left?

“The Czech left has suffered a decline that is long-term. It is not the first time that the Communist Party and the Social Democrats have suffered an election defeat – the decline has been for around 10 years. This time it seems that the Communist Party was definitely erased from the political map and there is nothing to indicate that the Social Democrats are returning to the political mainstream. It is a sad story, but it seems that leftist voters simply believe Mr. Babiš who has positioned his movement as leftist-populist and has basically cannibalized most of the voters of the Communists and the Social Democrats.