Students give ruling ANO party thumbs down in mock vote, support opposition groupings

More than 40,000 Czech students cast their ballots in mock elections held at secondary schools across the country this week. The outcome of the vote, held a fortnight ahead of regular elections, showed that the future generation of voters would end the rule of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and place its trust in the opposition coalitions running against him.

Organized by the NGO People in Need, the mock elections are designed to increase students’ interest in politics and secure their participation in future elections. In that they are proving highly successful, with the number of students taking part having doubled in the course of the last decade. Jessika and Dominik took part in their school in Uherské Hradistě.

“It is important to elect a party that will do something good for this country and fulfill its promises. People should go to the polls, because every vote counts and I think that young people have a good grasp on politics. It will be good for them to have their say and shape the future of this country.”

Photo: Luděk Peřina,  ČTK

Although Jessika will have to wait until the next elections to take part, Dominik will be able to vote for real this year, since he will turn 18 just three days ahead of the elections.

“It is important to vote. I don’t expect my vote will change the outcome, but I will cast my ballot. I will decide who to vote for on the basis of the parties’ policy programs and what kind of support they have. We shall see.”

The mock elections traditionally indicate that the future generation of voters – aged 15 to 18 – has a distinctly different take on Czech politics than their parents and grandparents. While just over a fortnight ahead of the elections preference polls put Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ ANO party in the lead, students favour the two opposition coalitions running against the prime minister’s party. The Pirate Party and Mayors and Independents, who form one coalition grouping, have won 30.4 percent of the vote in the mock student elections, with the other center-right grouping SPOLU coming second with 29.4 percent. Together these coalitions would have a comfortable majority in the lower house, which they may find rather hard to achieve in the elections proper.

Campaign of ANO | Photo: Czech Television

The prime  minister’s ANO party has come third with 8.5 percent of the vote and the only other party to cross the 5 percent margin needed to win seats in the lower house is the Green Party with 7.1 percent. The latter result reflects young people’s growing concern regarding climate change. According to a poll conducted by the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University 80 percent of people in the 15 to 20 age bracket consider climate change to be a very serious problem and two thirds of respondents said the Czech Republic should reduce its carbon dioxide emissions regardless of the policy of other states.

Pavlína Mikulcová, a teacher who helped organize the mock elections in Uherské Hradistě, says the coronavirus pandemic also played a part in raising students’ interest in the mock elections.

“In the course of the past two years students have become more interested in politics and more aware of the fact that politicians have a direct impact on their lives, by deciding about distance learning and what they could and could not do in their free time. So now they see the mock elections as an opportunity to say what they think about those decisions.”