Senate results should spark reflection from government parties, force negotiations with Social Democrats: political analyst Jiří Pehe

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Political analyst Jiří Pehe says the Senate election results represent a backlash against the centre-right coalition government’s reforms. He expects the outcome to make political parties and the government think again about their next moves and, whatever the constitutional weakness of the Senate, force them to consult with the majority party in the upper house, the Social Democrats. We asked him whether the results came in as he expected.

Photo: CTK
“I expected the results that we saw and the reason is that the voters got their chance to express their opinions about the government for the first time basically in the Senate elections. There is a rising tide in the public of resistance to the government reforms.”

So you interpret this as a vote against the government reforms to some extent?

“I definitely think it was a vote against the government reforms at least in one way. I think that the Social Democratic voters were much more motivated to show up and to vote and because the turnout in the Senate elections is traditionally low, I think that this decided it in the end.”

How much damage do you think this will do to the government coalition?

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“If you look at the elections that have been held this year, this is really bad news for some political parties. The Civic Democratic Party in particular has lost three elections in a row: the elections to the lower chamber of parliament, the Senate elections and the municipal elections. In all of them the party lost large numbers of deputies, senators and local representatives and that is really something the party will have to deal with. The Public Affairs party is the biggest loser in the elections because it lost in both the Senate and municipal elections in a way that can only be described as a fiasco. That means that there will be some re-evaluation in the government. I think that the government parties will really have to think about what they are doing and whether this is something that will backfire badly in terms of their popularity. ”

And as far as the legislative programme of the government is concerned, how much will the government’s reforms and the possibility, for example, of sending more troops to Afghanistan be threatened?

“Well, certainly the Social Democrats now have a tool which they can use to slow down the government reforms and block certain government proposals. The Senate is not a powerful institution in the Czech constitutional system but it can block electoral reforms, constitutional reforms and it must approve international agreements. So control of the Senate gives the Social Democrats a possibility to negotiate on something in the future. It means, for example, that if the government wants to send troops abroad then it will have to negotiate with the Social Democrats and perhaps make concessions somewhere else. Certainly I would not consider the Senate elections to be as insignificant as some analysts suggest.