Civic Democrats dominate centre right, as smaller parties fight for a place in the sun

01-07-2004

The recent elections to the European Parliament not only brought down the government, but also brought a shift on the Czech political scene. We take a closer look at the picture right of centre, where a dozen or so small parties are fighting for support, in the shadow of the dominant Civic Democrats:

Civic Democrats, photo: CTKCivic Democrats, photo: CTK Two parties reinforced their standing in the elections, the largely unreformed Communists on the left, and the Civic Democrats on the right, who seem very likely to win the next general elections. On the centre left of the political spectrum the Social Democrats are struggling, but among the smaller parties on the right the waters have become even murkier. The Civic Democrats, with their leadership's strident Eurosceptic rhetoric, do not appeal to all right-wing voters, but there is no clear alternative. There are no less than a dozen small right wing parties, all struggling for a place in the sun. Support for the Freedom Union, the smallest party of the outgoing coalition, has collapsed, while the star of the strongly pro-European European Democrats seems to be rising. Commentators suggest that the only feasible alternative would be a merger of some of the small right wing parties but the European Democrats, who won eleven percent in the European elections, are still hesitant to link their future to virtual unknowns. Jana Hybaskova, who was one of the party's leading candidates in the Euro elections, says that talks are underway but that future cooperation need not be "formalized" by a merger.

Jana Hybaskova, photo: CTKJana Hybaskova, photo: CTK "Yes, talks are underway but this does not mean a direct integration with the Freedom Union or any of the smaller parties on the right. Of course there will be a lot of negotiations concerning the future structure of right wing forces, but already - and we are only at the very beginning of this process - there is a lot of intellectual potential in this vacuum right of centre."

According to public surveys around 20 % of Czech voters would be prepared to give their vote to a right wing, liberal, pro-European force. At present most of them remain dissatisfied with what the centre right political scene has to offer.

This creates considerable potential for the European Democrats and others like them, if they manage to avoid the pitfalls which brought down the Freedom Union and the Civic Democratic Alliance. Political analyst Jiri Pehe says that one of the major hurdles on the way of a possible merger is that smaller parties usually find it extremely difficult to reach consensus. And at present, time is playing against them. If the Civic Democrats achieve their goal of early elections in 2005, the smaller right wing parties, led by the European Democrats will have very little time and opportunity to convince the public that they present a viable alternative for the future.

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