Pundit: Pirates’ strong poll placing shows demand for liberal party

Ivan Bartoš (Czech Regional Development Minister)

A Median poll published Tuesday reaffirms ANO’s long-term commanding lead among Czech voters. But the survey also suggests that the Czech Pirate Party, one of the smaller parties in the coalition, are now ahead of government leaders the Civic Democrats. So, what are the Pirates doing right? I put that question to political scientist Jiří Pehe.

“I think the Pirates are one of the most visible parties in the Czech government. They have two very good ministers. The minister of foreign affairs, Jan Lipavský, is considered probably the best minister in the Czech government. And the party chairman, Ivan Bartoš, is a good minister of regional development and is in charge of digitalisation.

“Second, I think the Pirates, before the European elections, are presenting a very pro-European, clear vision of Europe. They are not against the euro. They are also defending some important policies, such as introducing gay marriage, and they defended the Istanbul Convention.

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Luboš Vedral,  Czech Radio

“I think all of these things are reflected by the electorate and they have started gaining support.

“I also think it is partly tied to the fact that the strongest party in the ruling coalition, the Civic Democrats, are doing the opposite – and that’s why they have dropped in the opinion polls behind the Pirates.”

The next general elections are due towards the end of next year and already we’ve seen the Mayors – the party with which the Pirates ran in an alliance in the last elections – behaving a bit like a solo player, distancing themselves from the government. How are the Pirates handling being part of this unpopular government?

“I think the Pirates have decided they have to stay in this government, simply because they think that being in opposition in the lower chamber, with only four seats, would not really make them a viable opposition party.

“Also they feel like they can make a bigger difference if they are in the government.

Jan Lipavský  (Czech Foreign Minister) | Photo: X / Jan Lipavský

“But at the same time they seem to emphasising some of their own positions, which differ from the Civic Democrats, especially with regards to the European Union.

“And that, I think, makes them more popular.

“There’s a large segment of the Czech population with liberal views, and in the current government there’s basically no party that we could call a liberal party – with, I think, the exception of the Pirates.

“So they are also, I think, responding to a demand for a party with liberal views.”

It feels like for some time now that people have been speaking about the possibility of an ANO-Civic Democrats coalition after the next elections. But is it also possible that there could be an ANO-Pirates coalition?

“I would see a coalition between the Pirates and ANO as very unlikely. First, the Pirates are the fiercest critics of Andrej Babiš, so such a coalition would in theory be possible only if Andrej Babiš didn’t want to be prime minister.

“Second, I think the ANO movement has changed. It would maybe have been acceptable for the Pirates ideologically 10 years ago, when it was potraying itself as a liberal movement; then, of course, it would be possible to find some common ground.

“But now Andrej Babiš has moved ANO into conservative waters, nationalist waters, and I think that is totally unacceptable for the Pirates.”