Everyone’s a Loser

The Left-Wing Wins Parliamentary Elections, but Loses the Plot.

By the Prague Wandering Staff

There are no winners of the Czech parliamentary elections, unless you include President Milos Zeman, who wasn’t even running.

The left-wing Social Democrats came out on top with 20.5 percent of the vote. However, they did not gain enough of a majority that is needed to create a stable government and must seek coalition partners, such as the recently created ANO party, which garnered 19 percent of the vote and the Christian Democrats, who came away with  6.8 percent.

Courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com

Percentage of the Vote Won in the 2010 and 2013 Parliamentary Elections.
Courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com

Not invited to the coalition negotiating table but still expected to have backroom influence are the Communists, who came in second with 15 percent.

“I’m disappointed that people don’t see through such populism and such demagogical argumentation that these leaders have. It’s so obvious.”

But the coalition building has hit several snags, including an intra-party putsch and suspected meddling by Zeman, who critics say is dedicated to ousting the current Social Democratic leader, Bohuslav Sobotka, along with his supporters.  This chaos follows a long season of political disenchantment in the country, rife with corruption scandals and government collapses. In fact, some pundits predict a new government might not be able to take power until May due to protracted negotiations that Zeman, who has the final say to approve the coalition, is likely to drag out.

Another oddity is the strong showing of ANO, which means yes in English.  ANO, led by a Slovak-born agriculture baron who formerly collaborated with the Communist secret police, campaigned under the banner of anti-corruption.

The growing internal tensions are surely paving the way for a long hard road to stable government.

So what does this mean for the future of Czech politics? Prague Wandering reporters polled faculty at New York University in Prague to gauge their attitude about the outcome of this rocky election and their projections for the success of the new government. The votes are in:

·      “I expected [the Social Democrats’] strong showing, but if they had a more intelligent campaign they could win elections. I’m glad they did not because they need to learn the craft of politics first. . I think the biggest winner of this chaotic situation is the power of the Communist Party, which I dislike. It is very possible that this will backfire very soon.” –Jan Urban, Professor of European Studies
·      “I am very glad that a possible cooperation between the Social Democrats and the communists was excluded. I hope that a coalition between the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the new party, Ano, will be created. For me, the main issues at the moment are to continue the pro-European orientation, to deal with our difficult past and to fight current omni-present corruption.” – Monika MacDonagh-Pajerova, Professor of Philosophy and member of Christian Democrat’s campaign
·    “Well I personally think it’s one of the craziest elections I’ve witnessed, especially with the winner, the Social Democratic party, that claimed to help this country out of their problems and in fact they themselves can’t really cope with themselves. You know, it’s just a farce. So for me, I’m eagerly watching what happens next. Also I was a little surprised that some of the, I would say, quite racist party got in to the Parliament. But I still keep hope that it will turn to the better, even if there were new elections in Spring.” – Ivana Dolezalova, Professor of Central European Film

The Czech Chamber of Deputies will have some new and old faces following the October vote.
Photo courtesy of http://www.globalpost.com

·    “There’s still a strong element of nostalgia, but there is also this very strong need in society to look for some alternative between the corrupt right-wing parties and the nostalgic communists. There’s a middle class that doesn’t know what the hell they want and has no political consciousness or civic consciousness. They [the political party leaders] are taking advantage of politically inexperienced and frustrated population. It’s very sad. I really strongly believe that this is related exclusively to the lack of functioning civil society here. People will only vote for the parties that they will benefit from. There is no civic consciousness. There is no ‘we’re going to do this for the common good’. It is tainted by communists. All of these new leaders claim that they don’t want anything to do with traditional politics, they don’t want to be corrupt, they don’t want to be so strict, etc. But of course, it’s what they grew up in. I’m disappointed that people don’t see through such populism and such demagogical argumentation that these leaders have. It’s so obvious.” – Vanda Thorne, Professor of Sociology

·    “The best we can hope for would be a minority social democrat government with support from two other parties. How long that will be able to function, it’s really difficult to tell. Everything will depend on how strong the prime minister will be within his own party – whether he will be able to consolidate the power and actually strongly stand on his own against the President. Even if it’s a coalition government it’s going to be weak because they don’t have big program overlap. I think that it’s going to be unstable and I don’t think that’s very good for the Czech Republic.” – Tomas Klvana, Professor of Media and Communication 

·      “How we moved from the western democracy, which was so beautifully crafted by Vaclav Havel, to a realistic threat of eastern oligarchy 20 years laster, represented by populists with a messiah complex, is beyond me. We are moving backwards to an unknown territory instead of forward to a more mature democracy. It causes disillusionment, depression and anxiety in society; not a great mixture.” – Veronika Bednarova, Professor of Journalism

·    “People say that it was catastrophic, but I think it could have been a lot worse.” –Filip Chraska, Resident Assistant and student at University of Economics, Prague

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Categories: Fall 2013 Issue Number 2, News

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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