Current Affairs Twenty-four parties register to run in October's general elections
Tuesday was the cut-off line for registering in October’s general elections. Twenty-four parties and groupings have applied for registration, 17 of them fielding candidates in all 14 regions. Apart from the established parties voters will be able to choose from a vast number of small parties and groupings, who are hoping to ride on the wave of public discontent.
Three months after the fall of the centre-right government over a spying and corruption scandal that shook the Civic Democratic Party in its foundations, the dust has settled on a new political landscape. Right of centre, the TOP 09 party has assumed the lead while, the battered Civic Democrats have launched an anonymous campaign under the slogan “vote for the right”. In view of extreme public discontent with the performance of the former centre-right government, right wing parties have had to abandon the traditional line of campaigning and are presenting themselves as defenders of democratic values against the increasingly autocratic rule of the president and the growing influence of the Communist Party.
Left-of-centre, the Social Democrats, who are slated to win the elections, are fighting their own internal battle for unity against the influence of President Zeman’s supporters inside the party and the growing ambitions of the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites who are seeking to win over Social Democrat and Communist Party voters.
And then there are a vast majority of small parties and groupings – some new, some which were sidelined in the last elections and some made up of groupings too small and insignificant to run on their own. All are promising change: a different style of politics and an end to corruption. And the vast majority have put their money on well-known faces to attract voters, a tactic that has proved successful in past elections.
The integrity of these parties and groupings is questionable and commentators note that should more of them win seats in the lower house at the expense of the bigger parties, it could prove extremely difficult to put together a viable coalition government. Moreover, the president’s influence on the process of forming the next government could be considerable, both stemming from his own powers as head of state and from his considerable influence in at least two parties left of centre.
Whether voters will take all this into consideration when casting their ballot or whether they will cast a protest vote in favour of a newcomer or personality whom they trust remains to be seen. What seems obvious even now is that close to 80 percent of eligible voters will come to the polls in what may the biggest turnout in the country’s modern history.