Shock Increase in Support for Communists

7-8 2002 Aktuality English
obálka čísla

The election results brought a victory for the Social Democrats (CSSD), a shock for the right wing parties, and a disturbing triumph for the Communist Party, which increased its share of the vote to over 18%. It is true that the Communists were helped by a low turnout of 52% caused mainly by disenchanted right wing voters, but they were also the only parliamentary party to actually poll more votes than at the previous elections. (I use the term "parliamentary party" merely descriptively meaning those parties who gained over 5% of the vote and a place in parliament, not as indicating their dedication to the principles of parliamentary democracy.) Though it is true that the Communists have more voters in older age groups, the increase in the vote, giving them 41 seats in a 200 strong parliament, casts doubt on the theory, oft-expressed in the early 1990s, that Communist voters would simply gradually "die out". A substantial section of society has decided that the relatively cosy and undemanding lifestyle of the previous regime suited them better than the wider opportunities of democracy.
The Social Democrats also have a left wing programme including a slow pace of deregulation of state-controlled rents. The continuing low level of such rents leads to behaviour that would be unusual in the west being relatively common in the CR. Quite often, relatively well off people who live in a flat with a regulated rent buy a flat, but instead of moving to live in the new flat, continue to live in their state subsidized flat, since this is so advantageously cheap, and simply rent out their new flat on the free market, where rents are between three to five times higher.
Rival right wing parties, the ODS and the Freedom Union (US) agree that the split on the right wing was one of the reasons that led to the right wing's poor performance. The ODS, led by former PM Vaclav Klaus, is still perceived by many as more motivated by the benefits of power than by the chance of implementing liberal policies. The ODS was unable to explain to voters its reasons for maintaining the Social Democrat government in power for four years despite having called for a "mobilization against the menace of socialism" in the previous election campaign. The US certainly lost considerable votes because of its joint candidature with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). Many acquaintances of mine gave this as their reason for not voting for the US. Some voted CSSD instead, some ODS, but I fear most stayed at home or went for a day out.
The US has only eight MPs and had to borrow Svatopluk Karasek, an independent nominated by the KDU-CSL, in order to have enough MPs to form a parliamentary club. Nevertheless, the US is in the government led by the CSSD in which it and its KDU-CSL coalition partner each have three ministers. The coalition government has only a narrow majority of 101-99. Even before the negotiations were complete, US's leader Hana Marvanova resigned from her post. Marvanova argued that the US should not actually participate in the government, since the CSSD's programme entails a large increase in the public deficit and is in contradiction with the US's principles, but that the US should merely support the government as the lesser of two evils. Marvanova argued that the government is the only possible "pro-European one", since the ODS heavily played the nationalist card in the campaign, and that at present entry to the EU is the highest priority for the CR.

Ian Finlay

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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