For the first time since its founding in 1990, the Green Party now stands a chance of winning seats in the lower house of Parliament. The latest opinion survey has shown a slight but significant increase in the number of its supporters. Its 5, 6 popularity rating suggests that in the June general elections it could finally cross the magic five percent barrier needed to gain seats in the lower house.
Support for the Green Party is on the rise and although commentators tend to attribute this to what they call "protest votes" aimed against the governing coalition and opposition parties, the Greens are still happy to ride on the wave of popularity that may give them a more active role in Czech politics. Petr Stepanek is one of the party's leading members.
"In any democracy when people are not happy with the ruling party they vote outside the mainstream and if it is true that some of our votes are in reality protest votes, we understand it, we accept it. We present in our policy programme a better future, more hope for the future than the Social Democrats."
Although some degree of support for the Greens is very likely due to public disillusionment with the leading political parties, commentator Vladimira Dvorakova says that the ideas presented by the Greens should find sympathy among a certain part of the population.
"Mainly young people could vote for the Greens because they tend to lean towards multi-culturalism, liberalism, freedom and environmental awareness which are all issues that the Green Party has in its policy programme. However the party leader Mr. Bursik said recently that his preference is to form a coalition with the Civic Democrats and that might put some of the party's potential voters off."
Acquiring the political skill required to move in the top echelons of power is one of the main challenges the party faces. Its political experience is so far restricted to local administration and its only representative in Parliament is to be found in the Senate - former journalist Jaromin Stetina. Whatever its earlier preferences may have been the Green Party now claims that if it should get seats in the lower house it will be ready to cooperate with all democratic parties represented there.
"At the moment we have only one negative limitation - and that is the communist party. We feel that they have to make a clean break from their totalitarian past before they can enter the governing mainstream. Other than that any party could be our partner, based on programme-closeness. Our priorities are quality of life, family support, consumer protection, better education, support for research, and a shift towards public transport."
Whether or not the party will get a chance to defend these priorities in the lower house remains to be seen. For the present, the leading parties on the Czech political scene are not taking this potential newcomer very seriously. As one Civic Democratic Party official put it "Expectations are one thing and reality is another. We all expected to beat the Swiss hockey team at the Olympics."
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