Small parties seen making an impact in May lower house elections

The deadline has passed for political parties and movements to register for lower house elections at the end of May. More have come forward than last time round four years ago with many smaller parties given a real chance of getting a seat in parliament.

President Václav Klaus bemoaned slipping support for major parties and warned voters of small newcomer parties without a long history or clear credentials in a speech at the start of March.

But when the deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon for parties and movements to register for the elections, it gradually became clear that Czechs will be faced with many such newcomer parties in two months time.

Altogether 27 parties and movements have put up candidates, 15 of them are fighting seats across the whole country.

Besides the established parties, the left of centre Social Democrats and right of centre Civic Democrats, Communists, and Christian Democrats, are a host of relatively new hopefuls with a motley past.

Two of these hopefuls ― Top 09 and The Party for Citizens’ Rights ― are headed by established national politicians in new packaging. In the first case former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and previous finance minister Miroslav Kalousek and in the latter case former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman.

Radek John
That is not the case of the latest rising star according to recent polls, the Public Affairs party. Some of those polls have suggested around 8.0 percent of preferences and a double figure haul of seats in the lower house which might give it a key role in forming a new government.

The Public Affairs party was created in 2001 and until now has mostly had an impact at a local council level in a couple of Prague districts. It likes to profile itself as standing out from the mainstream parties thanks to its direct links with citizens, anti-corruption stance and direct membership participation in party decisions. Party leader, former tv journalist and writer Radek John, was elected by an internet poll of members.

Meanwhile, the surprise package in the 2006 elections when it entered parliament for the first time ― the Green Party ― is also a hopeful this time round. But it is being given a borderline chance in most polls and by most analysts of exceeding the 5.0 percent hurdle to get any seats at all.

So, are the newcomers here to stay or just another passing fad? Political analyst Jiří Pehe suggests a permanent erosion of support for the big parties and a chance that the small beneficiaries could have staying power which could represent the biggest shift in the political scene since 1989.

Green Party chairman Ondřej Liška,  photo: CTK
“We are certainly seeing a realignment or let’s say a restructuring. It seems to me that the new parties that will get into the lower house this year will stay with us for some time and we may have in the future a political spectrum that will consist of six, seven, maybe eight, parties rather than just the four or five we have had until now.”

The registered parties still have to be vetted by the Ministry of Interior.