Senate elections: a triumph for the centre-right Civic Democrats

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

As expected the second round of Senate elections held over the weekend were a triumph for the centre-right Civic Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Although his cabinet failed to win a vote of confidence in the lower house over a month ago, his party has now reaffirmed its leading position on the Czech political scene by winning a majority in the upper chamber.

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
Never before has one party won a dominant position in the Senate. With an even division of forces between left and right parties in the lower house the victory of the Civic Democrats in the Senate takes on added significance - it is expected to help break the deadlock in negotiations on forming a new government. Political analyst Petr Just says that although the results of these elections have given the Civic Democrats a big boost, the election results can only influence the talks on forming a new government indirectly:

"Clearly the Civic Democrats have defended their position as the strongest political party on the Czech scene. The election results have strengthened the position of Mirek Topolanek as party leader and the position of the Civic Democrats in the talks on forming a new government. But it's hard to say whether the election results will break the deadlock because the future government is linked to the division of power in the lower house. Therefore we still have to wait and see what the negotiations between parties represented in the lower chamber will bring - and whether the results of the Senate elections will not change the attitudes of some of those involved in the talks on forming a new government."

With a total of 41 Senators in the 81 seat upper chamber the Civic Democrats will be able to block legislation they are not happy about. Political analyst Petr Just explains how the Civic Democrat's majority in the Senate indirectly weakens the position of the left in the lower chamber:

"It is in the power of the Senate to return legislation back to the chamber of deputies if senators are not happy with it. And if the lower chamber wants to override the veto they need at least 101 votes. Therefore if the Civic Democrats want to veto laws pushed through by the two left of centre parties they can block them in the Senate and the Social Democrats and Communists would have no chance to override the veto."

Source: CTK
Although the Social Democrats only won six seats in the Senate, taking their total to 12 - this result has created interesting possibilities. It gives the country's two biggest parties a three-fifth majority in the Senate required to push through constitutional changes. This could include changes to the electoral law, blamed for the current political stalemate. Petr Just explains that if the two main rivals decided to join forces they would be incredibly powerful - because together they wield a constitutional majority in both houses of parliament.

"The Civic and Social Democrats now hold a constitutional majority in both chambers and together they could amend the Constitution - for instance change the electoral law. What is important is that these two parties have a constitutional majority in both chambers, which is not the case with the Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats. However we have heard from Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek that he doesn't plan to make any deals with the Social Democrats - so we do not know at this point whether this "theoretical partnership" will ever materialize.

However smaller parties on the Czech political scene could be wiped out by such an alliance -and consequently they are likely to do everything in their power to push for the other alternative: early elections. The Civic Democrats are on a winning streak and they have made it clear that they would like to give a repeat performance next year in early elections to the lower house.