Social Democrats regaining support ahead of regional and Senate elections

Photo: CTK

This weekend Czechs vote in both regional and Senate elections. One third of seats in the Senate are up for grabs in a two-round vote, with the run-off the weekend after next. The opposition Civic Democrats had been way ahead in opinion polls, but have slipped back in recent months, while the governing Social Democrats regained ground. On the eve of the elections, Ian Willoughby asked commentator Vaclav Zak how the Social Democrats had managed to win back voter support.

Photo: CTK
"The public had to get used to the fact are necessary. Because the Social Democratic Party didn't promise before the elections that they would do reforms - of course popular support declined.

"So I think that they reached the bottom and when they solved the situation within the party the trend started to be upward going - how far it will go I can't predict."

As part of their campaign ahead of the regional and Senate elections the Social Democrats have been employing the services of showbiz celebrities, like the singers Karel Gott and Helena Vondrackova - has that had any influence on their regaining support?

"I think maybe yes, maybe yes. But we are 15 years on from the revolution and popular singers can't influence the political preferences of the people - I do not believe it much."

The Social Democrats are the main party in government but they have no regional governors. Why do you think that is? And do you think it may change with the upcoming elections?

"The problem was that after two years in power the Social Democrat government four years ago was very unpopular. It was the lowest level of popularity of the government. And therefore they had no success in regional elections. Now the situation, as far as I can estimate, won't improve much."

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
The most popular party in the polls are of course the opposition Civic Democrats, but they have been losing some support. Also the party leader, Mirek Topolanek, has been under pressure recently. How do you think they will do? And is his position secure, or is there a chance he might be ousted as party leader by the end of this year?

"The first question - I think the Civic Democratic Party will succeed; all opinion polls say that they should win the elections.

"The second question is...I think the problem of the so-called eavesdropping of [the phone of] Mr Topolanek and the bribery affair with Mr Koristka will force the party to stand behind Mr Topolanek.

"So I think it would be very unreasonable if they tried to change him now, because they would be saying to the public that there was something wrong."