Current Affairs Candidates prepare for regional and Senate elections
Tuesday marked the final day that candidates could register for regional and Senate elections this autumn. Candidates will contest 27 seats in the Senate, while others will vie for posts in 13 regional assemblies.
It may still be days of summer, but the run-up to regional and Senate elections this autumn has begun: 4 pm Tuesday was the final deadline for potential candidates: now parties will vie for potential voters up until election day. Regional elections as well as the first round of Senate elections will take place on October 13th, while the second round of Senate elections will then take place a week later, on October 20th.
As in the past, opinion polls (as well as pundits) are suggesting the two biggest players in the fall elections will be the ruling Civic Democrats and opposition Social Democrats, both taking a different tack: while the former want to emphasise regional issues, the latter want to make the election a ‘referendum’ on the national government. The opposition parties are hoping that widely unpopular austerity measures, the VAT hike or opposition to a major bill on church restitution which the leftist Senate will send back to the lower house next week will propel them to victory. Social Democrat Milan Štěch is the speaker of the Upper House:
“I think that the issue of church restitution will be one that many people will be deciding about: at a time when everyone is being asked to tighten their belt a bill costing 140 billion crowns, in my opinion, will impact how people vote.”
The Communist Party also wants to bring national issues to the fore. The party’s deputy chairman Jiří Dolejš told Czech TV that his party would focus on church restitution as well the state of public finances which he said also impacted the regions. The ruling Civic Democrats hit back, slamming the Social Democrats who had governors the regions for four years; they also emphasised they would put regional issues front-and-centre. Pavel Drobil, the Civic Democrats’ campaign manager, told Czech TV this:
“It’s sad that even after four years that the Social Democrats dominated in the regions they still don’t know what the jurisdiction of regional assemblies is.”
Which message will click with voters will be one of the big questions ahead of the autumn elections but it may prove harder (or not even desirable) to differentiate between national and local politics for one simple reason: the presence of a number of former politicians in government now seeking the office of governor in several regions: recently-dismissed justice minister Jiří Pospíšil, who will be running in Plzeň, former Social Democrat prime minister Jiří Paroubek in Ústí nad Labem, and former deputy prime minister Jiří Čunek in Zlín.