By Dr. Josef A. Mestenhauser
The recently concluded elections in Central Europe brought many surprises that should have left the analysts looking for ways to explain their faulty predictions. In both the Czech and Slovak Republics, the largest percentage of votes went to social democrats (CSSD and the Smer), but they will not be able to form governments.
In Slovakia, former Prime Minister Fico returned his mandate to form a government in Slovakia because he could not find enough support; the new prime minister will be Iveta Radicova, President of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU-DS). She was a presidential candidate in 2009, and will be the first woman to hold the post. In all, eighteen parties nominated 2,401 candidates for 150 seats. With a turnout of 58.8 percent, only six parties obtained enough votes to be seated in parliament. Others, including former Prsident Meciar’s party, did not get in. Predictions are that this spells his political death. By August, Slovakia should have a new coalition government supported by SDKU-DS, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Freedom and Solidarity Party (SaS) and the moderate Hungarian Party. The Communist Party received less than one percent.
In the Czech Republic the results were similar. Only six parties received enough votes to be seated in Parliament. Two major parties that were previously members of the Topolanek cabinet failed to receive the minimum five percent of votes and were thus decimated, as was the new party of former Social Democratic Prime Minister Zeman with only 4.3 percent. Communists received only 11.3 percent. President Klaus appointed Petr Necas of ODS to form a new cabinet.
When you read this in August, the Czech Republic should have a coalition cabinet composed of the ODS party, the TOP 9 headed by Schwarzenberg, and the VV (Public Affairs) headed by Radek Jahn (who spent a year at Macalaster College). The coalition will command a safe majority of 118 votes in the 200-seat parliament. The coalition has already reached an agreement on major policy issues, with a few to go. The new president of ODS has given coalition partners important ministries, but has been less friendly to his arch rival Paroubek, who wanted to be President of Parliament. People clearly blamed Paroubek for toppling the cabinet at the time when the Czech Republic served as President of the European Union. He was also seen as flirting with the communists when he blocked several pieces of important legislation.
We can expect major policy changes because the coalition appears to be taking its mandate seriously; it is expected to fight corruption and come up with a package of fiscal responsibility. I will keep you posted on developments – so keep your interest up – as well, as your hope that the people of the Czech and Slovak Republics have matured in their understanding of parliamentary democracy.