Civic Democrats triumph in Senate, local elections, but will it break deadlock?

23-10-2006

Czechs are digesting the results of the weekend's Senate and municipal elections. The vote appeared to be a resounding victory for the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, who went through to the second round in 26 of the 27 Senate mandates being contested, and will also gain more council seats than any other political party. But will the results loosen the deadlock in national politics?

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek, photo: CTK On paper the Civic Democrats have performed extremely well. The party, led by acting prime minister Mirek Topolanek, will dominate the country's town councils. They scored a stunning victory in Prague, where they will most likely command a majority of the seats on the city council and can effectively rule alone.

In the Senate, Civic Democrats progressed to the second round run-off in 26 of the 27 seats up for grabs, and if they win 14 of those seats, for the first time in the Senate's short history one party will have a majority in the upper house.

However next weekend's Senate runoff will very much be the Civic Democrats v everyone else, and it's far from certain the party will gain that crucial figure of 14. This is why Mr Topolanek is urging caution to those describing the Senate election as a landslide.

Pavel Bem and Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKPavel Bem and Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK The broader question of the influence of these elections on the national situation is much more difficult to answer. The Senate and municipal elections do not change the fact that the lower house is split down the middle between right and left, and that Mr Topolanek has been incapable of putting together a majority government. Petr Just lectures in politics at Charles University:

"It is true that the Senate and municipal elections did not change the division in the chamber of deputies, the lower house of parliament, which is much more important for creating a government. However, these elections were more important for the parties themselves. They showed them how their leaders did in the post-election period, how they did during the negotiations on forming a new government. It's a kind of feedback from the voters."

Some analysts have said that the Civic Democrats have been looking for a signal from the Czech public to push for early elections and deal the political cards again. Is this that signal?

Pavel Bem and Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTKPavel Bem and Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK "It could be considered as a signal, because the Civic Democrats are strongly campaigning for early elections and their strong victory can be a signal that the Czech public is also for early elections as a way to solve the deadlock."

President Klaus, the founder and honorary chairman of the Civic Democrats, said the recent scandals involving accusations against the left-of-centre Social Democrats had no effect on these elections. Do you think he's right?

"If we look back at the June elections, there was also a scandal just a week before the June elections. However sociologists did some research asking voters when they decided to vote for a certain party, and most of them said they were decided long before the scandal came out. I think the current issues will be evaluated in a similar way, because voters are usually decided much earlier than a week before."

23-10-2006

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