Round one of the Senate elections complete, regional elections to commence this weekend

29-10-2002

The first round of Senate elections took place on the weekend. In the elections a third of the Senate were contested, only one candidate was elected in the first round. Among the remaining seats the opposition Civic Democrats, headed by former prime minister Vaclav Klaus, showed the strongest showing. The second round of Senate elections will take place on the weekend together with the local elections.

Czechs throughout the country will be electing their representatives for regional government this coming weekend. However, if the Senate elections are used as an indicator for voter turnout then the outlook for the first round looks quite bleak. Only 24% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the first round of Senate elections. I spoke with political commentator Jan Urban and asked him why voter turnout is so low in this years elections.

"When you appoint the date for elections on a so called long-weekend, when all people are leaving to visit relatives is a kind of a ban omen. And second, when you appoint the most important second round, all saints religious anniversary, its again the day when everyone here by tradition visits the graves of their parents or relatives. So I think that parliament must have had a very bad time in deciding these dates."

This years regional elections will be the most important ever. Since the political system in the Czech Republic was decentralised last year - regional governments have been given more influence in how local issues should be dealt with. Mr. Urban explains how regional governments are increasingly developing links with local people.

Senate elections, photo: CTKSenate elections, photo: CTK "In large parts of the country independent candidates, or local candidates not tied to any of the large political parties or groupings are winning by now on a regular basis. And it shows that local representatives, the representatives of what you can call civil society are much more influential or much more important to people on the local level then the political big shots dictated from above."

Do you believe that regional government is needed in the Czech Republic?

"Much more then ever, because the closer to the voter, the closer to the real people and the real problems the government is the better. People have a much better chance to control their representation. And on the contrary, their representatives on the local level have a much better chance to approach even the high levels of authority. I think that local government is the best illustration to Winston Churchill's description of democracy as the least of all evil's. I hope that this movement, to the increased importance of regional government will continue."

29-10-2002