Political uncertainty in Czech Republic following general election

Social Democrats gain narrow victory and face tough coalition talks

Czech Social Democratic Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Photograph: Reuters.

Czech Social Democratic Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Photograph: Reuters.

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 01:01


The Czech Republic is facing more political uncertainty after an early general election gave only a narrow victory to the Social Democrats and ushered several new parties into parliament.

The centre-left Social Democrats, who claimed 50 seats in parliament, will attempt to forge a coalition with the fledgling Ano party, a centrist group that came second with 47 seats, as voters punished established right-wing parties for their involvement in several lurid scandals.

The Christian Democrats, who took 14 seats, could also be part of the coalition, said Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka, who is under considerable personal pressure due to the underwhelming nature of his party’s victory.


Disappointing win
The Social Democrats had hoped to secure a far stronger victory in a ballot that was triggered by the collapse in June of a centre-right government led by the Civic Democrats (ODS), a traditional powerhouse of Czech politics which will have only 16 seats in the new parliament.

ODS prime minister Petr Necas was forced to resign when his closest aide, Jana Nagyova, was accused of asking military intelligence to conduct surveillance on several people, including Mr Necas’ estranged wife, and three ODS deputies were accused of corruption. Mr Necas and Ms Nagyova have since married.

“The result is not what we expected,” Mr Sobotka said of a bittersweet victory that saw his party claim its smallest share of votes in 20 years, reflecting Czechs’ disillusionment with a political elite that is widely seen as venal, nepotistic and incompetent.

“Mathematically, there could be a centre-left government with some form of co-operation with Ano and the Christian Democrats,” Mr Sobotka added. “I think the Social Democrats should focus on these talks.”


Complications
Coalition talks could be further complicated by dissatisfaction with Mr Sobotka’s leadership within his own party.

“If I was the Social Democrat leader and the party got 20.5 per cent in elections, I would resign from my post,” said the party’s deputy chairman, Michal Hasek.

Leading members of Ano, which means “Yes” in Czech and was formed by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, said they were open to talks with the Social Democrats on co-operation.

But while the two parties could find common ground on measures to fight corruption and increase transparency in politics and business, the Social Democrats’ plan to raise taxes on big companies and wealthy individuals would clash with Ano’s manifesto.