Will poor Senate showing impact ANO approach to presidential vote?

Andrej Babiš

Elections to one-third of the seats in the Czech Senate were not a success for opposition leaders ANO, which took only three of 27, compared to 20 for the governing Together group. Where did it go wrong for Andrej Babiš’s party? And will the results impact how ANO approach January’s presidential election? I spoke to political scientist Petr Just.

Petr Just | Photo: Elena Horálková,  Czech Radio

“I think the results for ANO were very bad. Not only numbers-wise, that they got only three seats out of 27 that were at stake.

“But we have to see it in the broader context as well.

“For the first time since the rise of ANO to national level politics, ANO entered the Senate elections as the opposition party.

“There has been evidence in the past that the Senate elections always serve as a counterbalance to the Chamber of Deputies.

“The party which is leading the coalition and leading the majority in the Chamber of Deputies usually performs weaker in the Senate elections, and vice versa.

Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“So the fact that ANO as an opposition party didn’t use the full potential of this counterbalance of the Senate has to be also mentioned when explaining how badly ANO actually did and performed in these Senate elections.”

Was it naive of ANO to focus so much energy and evidently money on the Jihlava constituency, where it looked like the incumbent senator, Miloš Vystrčil, was going to win anyway?

“It was naive and I would see it as one of the biggest mistakes that Andrej Babiš, ANO and the strategists and PR experts of ANO made.

“They spent a lot of energy, time, human resources and money just on one district. One out of 17 districts where ANO candidates went forwards to the second round.

Miloš Vystrčil | Photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

“And it’s true that this district has been pretty much safe for Miloš Vystrčil, so this was quite a big mistake.

“If Andrej Babiš had spread the support more among other districts as well, and especially if he had focused on the districts where the margin between the ANO candidate and the opponent was much smaller, they could have celebrated victories in other districts as well.”

There’s been a lot of speculation for a long time that Andrej Babiš will stand for president. The party are going to say at the end of this month who their candidate for president is going to be. Do you think what happened in the Senate elections may influence what they do?

“Well, first of all the Senate elections are held in regional districts, while the presidential elections are nationwide.

“Therefore you need a strong national personality in presidential elections, while you need more like regional based personalities in Senate elections to succeed.

“But the principle of the system is the same, and I think the lesson that Andrej Babiš, and any candidate who runs for the presidency, can learn from the Senate elections is the logic and the principle of how the second round of a two-round system, and in particular the second round, works.

Andrej Babiš | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

“You need to have a majority, not just a plurality of votes. Andrej Babiš and ANO are strong if we look at them from the perspective of plurality – they always have the biggest share of votes.

“But it rarely is more than 50 percent.

“If he runs, he won’t be able to get more than 50 percent in the first round; he’ll probably get the plurality.

“But we expect that in a second round his performance would be very much influenced by limited potential to gain support from other people, outside of the ANO group.

“This is something which many observers of Czech politics say will play an important role in Babiš’s decision about a presidential run.”

Yes or no – is Babiš going to stand? What do you think? A one-word answer please.

“Now it seems it’s going to be no.