Pundit: Latest anti-graft party Oath have big chance of winning seats

The Oath

Recent polls have suggested a new political grouping may make the five-percent threshold to reach the Chamber of Deputies in elections this autumn. The Oath (Přísaha in Czech) have been using similar anti-corruption rhetoric to previous new parties and are led by Robert Šlachta, a former top police officer. So what explains the rise of the Oath? That’s a question that I put to political scientist Petr Just.

Petr Just | Photo: Charles University

“There are some natural causes, I would say.

“At every elections we get a certain amount of protest voters casting protest votes – votes that are against something, not for something.

“Usually it’s against the ruling parties: parties that are in power or have been in power for a certain period.

“For a long time protest votes were usually cast for the Communist Party.

“But since the Communist Party’s involvement with Babiš’s government in the last term their protest potential is now quite limited.

“Šlachta was actually able to recognise this potential and to recognise the main issues that are common for all these protest parties.

“They present themselves as warriors against corruption, against clientelism, against all the evil that’s happening in politics.

“They promise a better future. They promise more transparent government.

“This is what Public Affairs in 2010 were popular with. This is what brought ANO into politics.

“And this is one of the reasons behind the success of this Oath movement.”

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO has praised Mr. Šlachta and some critics have insinuated that the two may be secretly working together, with the idea being that Šlachta provides voters with an alternative to ANO but that he will ultimately work with Babiš. How do you view this suggestion, or even allegation?

Robert Šlachta | Photo: Anna Kottová,  Czech Radio

“It’s not easy to prove that there is some deal between Mr. Babiš and Mr. Šlachta.

“But I would say, probably unintentionally, there may be something like a closeness between these two movements.

“Both are built on the same programmatic principles.

“There are other common features. There is the strong role of the leading person.

“Of course, there are also some differences. In the case of ANO we know that Babiš is also the one who owns the movement, who is someone who is like a CEO.

“But in the case of the Oath there are still a lot of questions as to who is actually behind it, and if there is somebody behind it, who that person is and what are his or her intentions.”

The Oath don’t seem to have much of a party structure yet, and they don’t seem to have many members. But polls are suggesting they may reach the five-percent threshold. How likely do you think it is that they will actually get into Parliament in October’s elections?

Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“Well, I think it’s very likely.

“With all the potential of these protest groups that is at stake, I think the Oath has a quite high chance.

“Of course, it’s still on the edge of the five-percent threshold.

“Some polls show them being slightly above the five-percent threshold but some show them being slightly below it.

“That still leaves an open contest, because of the statistical margin or the statistical errors that might appear.

“But now it seems that it’s more likely to enter the Chamber of Deputies.

“That’s not because of the numbers we see.

“What political scientists should follow is usually the trend, the tendency.

“And the trend is rising. Slowly but continuously rising.”