Czech voters set to punish scandal-ridden right-wingers

Parliamentary elections like to deliver victory to centre-left Social Democrats

Taoiseach Enda Kenny talks to Czech Republic’s prime minister Petr Necas (centre) and Greece’s prime minister Antonis Samaras during an European Union leaders summit  in Brussels last year. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny talks to Czech Republic’s prime minister Petr Necas (centre) and Greece’s prime minister Antonis Samaras during an European Union leaders summit in Brussels last year. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Fri, Oct 25, 2013, 01:01


Czechs are expected to throw their support behind left-wing parties and several new political groups in parliamentary elections triggered by lurid sex, spying and corruption scandals that brought down a centre-right government.

Voting today and tomorrow is likely to deliver victory to the centre-left Social Democrats, with polls predicting the Communist Party will vie for second place with a new party formed by one of the Czech Republic’s richest businessmen.

The election is forecast to deliver a crushing blow to the Civic Democrats (ODS) and their allies in a government that collapsed in June. Prime minister Petr Necas and his cabinet resigned after his closest aide was among several prominent political and intelligence figures to be arrested in an unprecedented series of police raids.

Jana Nagyova, who ran Mr Necas’s office, was accused of asking military intelligence to conduct surveillance on several people, including her boss’s estranged wife. Mr Necas has since got a divorce and married Ms Nagyova.


Military intelligence
Two former chiefs of Czech military intelligence were accused of abuse of power in the case and, separately, an ex-minister and two former deputies from Mr Necas’s Civic Democrat party were suspected of corruption.

The scandal was one of many to rock Mr Necas’s government and to undermine the Czech people’s trust in their politicians, who are widely seen as being too cosy with leading businessmen. The collapse in support for the ODS – which is forecast to take only 6.5 per cent of votes – has prompted the formation of new political groups, foremost among them Ano – which means “Yes” in Czech – under the leadership of billionaire Andrej Babis. He wants to cut VAT, spend more on infrastructure and lower energy prices but, above all, Mr Babis insists he wants to clean up graft-ridden and nepotistic Czech politics.

The latest polls give Ano about 16 per cent support, ahead of the communists but trailing the Social Democrats led by Bohuslav Sobotka, who plan to strengthen welfare for poor Czechs and increase taxes for large companies and wealthy individuals.

The Social Democrats are expected to take about 26 per cent of the votes, raising the possibility that they will need to rely on the communists to push legislation through parliament. Mr Sobotka has said his party will not create a formal coalition with the communists – who retain many features of the party that was finally ousted from power in the 1989 Velvet Revolution – but the prospect of a tacit alliance disturbs many Czechs.

“Unfortunately, following the terrible term of the Czech right, a communist threat doesn’t look to be so serious for a majority of Czechs because many now think that even with the communists in power the situation can’t be worse than under the government led by Petr Necas,” said political analyst Jiri Pehe.

Leftist president Milos Zeman will nominate a prime minister once final results have been announced.