Will Czech voters opt for new Voice in European elections?

06-02-2019

A new pro-European, liberal party will soon appear on the Czech political scene. Voice is being established by Pavel Telička, a well-known one-time European commissioner and current MEP. But how much impact can the grouping realistically be expected to have?

Pavel Telička, photo: Jan Bartoněk / Czech RadioPavel Telička, photo: Jan Bartoněk / Czech Radio Pavel Telička negotiated the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU and was the country’s first European commissioner back in 2004.

In 2014 he won a seat in the last elections to the European Parliament on the ANO ticket. However, he and another MEP, Petr Ježek, later broke away from the party over policy differences.

Now the pair have announced the formation of a new grouping, Voice (Hlas in Czech).

They plan to run as Voice candidates in European Parliament elections in the spring but say it will also be established as a pro-European party advocating liberal democratic values here in the Czech Republic.

Pavel Telička laid out its aims to Czech Radio.

“It’s not a movement that would be established purely for one purpose. Rather it’s responding to the current domestic political situation and, of course, our interests within the framework of the European Union. I think this movement does have a role as a serious political player.”

However, what are the chances of Voice making a genuine impact on Czech politics?

Political scientist Petr Just says Mr. Telička’s name recognition and reputation as an expert on EU matters should prove an asset.

On the down side, Voice will be entering an already crowded field, he says.

“We have TOP 09, we have the Christian Democrats, we have the Mayors and Independents and we will probably have a new movement founded by the current MEP Štětina – and now we have to add Mr. Telička’s movement.

“They are all identifying themselves as centre-right and as very pro-European.

Illustrative photo: Ondřej TomšůIllustrative photo: Ondřej Tomšů “So there will be quite heavy competition in this field and it can hurt TOP 09, the Christian Democrats, the Mayors and Independents, Mr. Štětina’s initiative and also Mr. Telička’s party.”

Political scientist Jiří Pehe, meanwhile, says that many Czech liberal voters are likely to choose a different horse entirely.

“I think this comes too late, only three months before the European elections.

“On top of that, I think the liberal agenda has been more or less expropriated by the Pirates at this point.

“So I think that those liberal voters who really want to make an impact in the European elections will probably opt for the Pirates rather than for this new political group which is not tested and basically depends on two names.”

Voice say they are confident of collecting the required number of signatures to register the party ahead of European elections that are due to take place on the final weekend of May.

06-02-2019