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Czech Republic - Politics

June
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ANO 201147 78
ODSCivic Democratic Party 63 5881 53 16 25
Pirate Party 22
Freedom and Direct Democracy 22
CSSDCzech Social Democratic Party 747074 56 50 15
KSCMCommunist Party of Bohemia and Moravia2441 26 2633 ...
Dawn14 ...
VVPublic Affairs 24 ...
TOP 09 Tradition Responsibility Prosperity4126 ...
SZGreen Party 6 ...
USFreedom Union 19 10 ...
KDU-CSLChristian Democratic Union-
Czechoslovak Peoples Party
20 21 13 14 ...

Andrej Babis and his ANO (short for Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) party came away with the lion's share of the votes 21 October 2017, outpacing their nearest rivals by nearly 3-1. Still, it was a banner day for insurgent parties, two of whom had especially strong showings. The billionaire businessman Andrej Babis would become the Czech Republic's next prime minister after his centrist ANO party won 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament. Establishment parties balked at joining a government with a potential prime minister who is under criminal investigation, while the insurgent parties remained something of a wild card. The center-of-right Civic Party, once the dominant conservative party in Czech politics came in at a distant second with a little more than 11 percent of the vote, and 25 seats in parliament. The left-of-center, anti-establishment Pirate Party surged into parliament with 10.8 percent of the vote, followed closely by the far-right nationalist Freedom and Direct Democracy party (another newcomer to parliament) with 10.6 percent. Each party would likely hold 22 seats. Despite a booming economy featuring healthy economic growth, low unemployment and wage growth, the ruling left-of-center Social Democratic Party was pummeled at the polls, winning just 7.3 percent in their worst showing since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. They held 50 seats in the outgoing parliament but are likely to have just 15 in the next legislative session. They appear to have been done-in by anti-immigrant and anti-Islam anxiety, as well a healthy dose of euro-scepticism on the part of the public. The Social Democratic Party won the 25 October 2013 general election, but failed to secure a decisive victory sought by party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. The party had hoped to gain one-third of the vote to form a stable minority government (governing with the tacit support of the Communists). But the Social Democrats secured only 20.4 percent of the votes, making it clear the party would seek talks with potential coalition partners (with the apparent exception of right-of-center TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats, two previous coalition parties). There is no guarantee, however, that Sobotka will get the nod from President Zeman to try to form the next government. The president made clear in the past that he would only choose a prime minister designate from the winning party, leading to speculation he could choose someone other than its leader, presumably from a more closely-aligned wing.

The upstart party ANO 2011, led by billionaire businessman-turned-politician Andrej Babi, secured the most surprising result of the election this year. The party, running a highly-effective protest campaign, finished second with 18.6 percent of the vote, outpacing not only the Communists, who were third (with 14.9 percent), but also two of the parties from the former government, TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats. TOP 09, led by Karel Schwarzenberg, finished with 11.9 percent of the vote, and the Civic Democrats, led by Miroslava Nemcov, secured 7.7 percent.

This years election also saw other major surprises, among them the success of a second protest party, Dawn, led by Czech-Japanese businessman turned senator Tomio Okamura. Dawn, with what many pundits regard as a strongly populist message, made it into the Chamber of Deputies with 7 percent of the vote. The election also saw the successful return to the lower house of the Christian Democrats led by Pavel Belobrdek (6.8 percent), a long-established party that had failed to make it into the Chamber of Deputies last time.

Parties that failed to pass the five percent threshold included the Citizens Rights Zemanites (supported by the current president) who secured only 1.5 percent of the vote. The Green Party, headed by Ondrej Lika, secured just 3.1 percent of the vote and the right-wing coalition Heads Up headed by Jana Bobokov also finished well short of the five percent needed (0.42 percent).

The voting produced a fragmented lower house, with no clear coalition in sight. Moreover, several party leaders have ruled out cooperation with one another; if they maintain their position, commentators say, it would be literally impossible to form even a minority government with sufficient backing. Under the Czech Constitution, the president can pick a prime minister designate of his own choice. Traditionally, this was always the head of the party that topped the ballot. But Milo Zeman has shown little respect for tradition since becoming the Czech Republic's first directly elected head of state, and much will depend on how he chose to proceed.

Elections to the lower house of the Czech Parliament took place on May 28 and 29, 2010. Social Democrats gain most votes but center and center-right parties get majority of seats in lower house. The final elections results gave the left of center Social Democrats most votes with 22.1 % followed by the Civic Democrats on 20.2 %, according to the Czech Statistical Office. The recently created TOP 09 party was third with 16.7 % followed by the Communists with 11.3 % and the Public Affairs party with 10.9 %. The Christian Democrats and the party of former Social Democrat prime minister Milos Zeman were both just under the 5.0 % threshold to entry to the lower house with around 4.5 %. The turnout was 62.6 %.

These figures translate into 56 seats in the 200-seat lower house for the Social Democrats. The Civic Democrats would gain 53 seats, TOP 09 41 seats, the Communists 26 seats and Public Affairs 24 seats. The Social Democrats won most votes in most regions of the country apart from the Liberec, Hradec Krlov, Southern Bohemia and Central Czech regions won by the Civic Democrats. TOP 09 was the most popular party in the former Civic Democrat bastion, Prague, with around 27 % of support.

Voters were given the opportunity to circle up to four candidates on the ballot. If they gained more than 5 percent of such preferential votes, they jumped over the person ahead of them. Even the parties that had dominated Czech politics in the last decade - the Social and Civic Democrats - experienced a new phenomenon in Czech elections: preferential voting. Never before have voters given so much support to candidates at the bottom of the ballots, sending them to the lower house instead of political veterans at the top.

The Czech general elections saw voters swing away from the established parties in favor of newcomers. One of the traditional parties that got left out in the cold were the Christian Democrats, who received just 4.4 percent of the vote, falling short of the 5 percent threshold required for seats in Parliament. The position of the Christian Democrats has been complicated since the mid 1990s, because this party is based on some very specific, traditional electoral background without being capable of increasing influence over the new cohorts, or groups of voters. So it is a territorially limited political party, in southern Moravia with a large Catholic-oriented population.

The three center and center-right parties in the lower house signed a declaration 02 June 2010 over their intent to form a coalition government. Civic Democrat leader Petr Necas said it could take a month, at a maximum two, for a final coalition deal to be sealed. The leader of the Public Affairs party, Radek John, warned that his party might not join a coalition with the Civic Democrats and TOP 09.

On 28 June 2010 the Czech Republic had a new prime minister and was on track for a new government, after more than a year of political limbo caused by the downfall of Mirek Topolnek's center-right coalition. Petr Necas was appointed by President Klaus in a brief ceremony at Prague Castle. He headed a center-right government that promised austerity measures to tame the budget deficit and a concerted campaign against corruption.

It would be hard to find a greater contrast to outgoing leader Mirek Topolnek. Petr Necas, 45, church-going, a father of four, is unlikely to leave his wife for one of his party colleagues, or punch tabloid photographers in the street, or stick his middle finger up at rivals in parliament. The only thing Petr Necas appears to share in common with Mirek Topolnek are his Moravian origins, his conservative politics and his considerable height. Described in the Czech media as "Mr Clean", his worst character trait, he told a newspaper recently, is his grumpiness, something he seems to keep well hidden. His greatest sin appears to be an addiction to chocolate. Petr Necas was born in Uhersk Hradiste, South Moravia, in 1964, emerging from Brno's Purkyne University with a physics degree. After national service and four years working at the state-owned electronics company Tesla, he entered politics.

He served in a number of senior posts, including deputy defence minister, chairman of the lower house defence and security committee and, most recently, labour and social affairs minister, a post he occupied until the collapse of the Topolnek government in 2009.

On January 12, 2013 former leftist prime minister Milos Zeman won the first round of the Czech Republic's first direct presidential vote since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Zeman, however, faced tough competition in a second round to replace the euro-skeptic Vaclav Klaus. The former prime minister faced a major challenge from 75-year-old pro-European Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who placed second in the first round with 23 percent of the vote. The two men faced each other in a run-off January 25 and January 26. Prime Minister Peter Necas voiced disappointment because another presidential hopeful of his ruling center right Civic Democratic Party party did not receive many votes. Though largely a ceremonial role, the president yields political influence at a time when the Czech Republic struggles to overcome economic decline and an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent.

Former prime minister Milos Zeman won the Czech Republic's first direct presidential election on 25 January 2013. The left-leaning former prime minister captured 55-percent of the vote in a run-off against conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The Necas government had been suffering from rock bottom poll figures for months due to its unpopular austerity policy. The cabinet seemed to be stumbling from one scandal to the next and Zeman won the presidential election partly as a protest against Necas and his team. Milos Zeman, the former Social Democrat prime minister, is fond of a drink or two and a heavy smoker, and is known for his legendary putdowns of political opponents.

On 17 June 2013 Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said he was resigning over a corruption and spying scandal that had rocked the small European Union nation. Police raided government and private offices, seizing up to $8 million in cash, large amounts of gold and documents. Jana Nagyova, office manager and mistress of then-prime minister Petr Necas, was accused of bribing representatives, working with mafia-like lobbyists and shadowing the then-wife of the prime minister with the help of the secret service. Czech President Milos Zeman said the charges, brought after armed police raids on government and private offices, were "serious."

The standard practice would have been for parliamentary president Miroslava Nemcova to have appointed a new cabinet. That, at least, was what the majority in parliament wanted, and President Milos Zeman could have gone along with that. The ruling coalition was set to elect a new leader to form a government. If approved by the country's president, the coalition could rule until elections in 2014.

But on 10 July 2013 Czech President Milos Zeman swore in a cabinet that faced almost certain rejection by parties in parliament, raising the prospect of prolonged political uncertainty. Left-wing populist President Milos Zeman seemed intent on transforming the Czech Republic from a parliamentary into a presidential democracy. As the first directly elected president of his country, Zeman said he could allow himself more powers than his predecessors.

The leftist president confirmed longtime ally economist Jiri Rusnok as prime minister, hoping that he could pull the Czech economy out of a recession in its second year and lead the country into an election due in 2014. But the cabinet was likely to lose a vote of confidence, due within 30 days, as Rusnok's appointment had infuriated both the three parties of the outgoing center-right coalition and the leftist opposition, who all viewed the appointment as a power grab by Zeman.

It is not often that Czech politicians find common ground on any given issue, but President Milo Zemans first few months in office led politicians across the board to the conclusion that direct presidential elections may not have been such a good idea after all. As soon as Zeman took up office he made it clear that his mandate was stronger than that of any political party on the scene and that he intended to make full use of any powers the constitution gave him. The fact that the Czech Constitution is ambiguous on many points has made it easy for Zeman to stretch his powers to the limit and possibly even beyond. He was the first head of state to refuse to appoint a professor because he did not approve of his behaviour, he deadlocked the process of appointing new ambassadors by insisting on his own nominees and refusing to appoint others until they were approved by the foreign minister and, following the fall of the center-right government, he appointed a prime minister of his own choice who then proceeded to form a government of people known to be loyal to the head of state.

By August 2013 the Czech Republic had been stuck in a deep crisis for almost two months. On 07 August 2013 Parliament held a vote of confidence in the provisional cabinet led by Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok. The result was obvious from the start: the right-of-center parties which made up the former government coalition had already agreed to vote against Rusnok's government of technocrats which mainly consists of political allies of President Milos Zeman and was created against the will of the parliamentary majority. One hundred of the 193 representatives attending the session voted against Rusnok.

Three members of the assembly decided not to back their parties. Thus, while the left-leaning provisional government was not confirmed in office, there was no majority for a continuation of the previous center-right coalition either. Parliament was left to pick up the pieces. What started as a government crisis became a crisis of parliamentary democracy. The dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies opened the door to early elections, which, if polls were to be believed, would be welcomed by the majority of Czech voters exhausted by months of political crisis.

Right of center, the TOP 09 party assumed the lead while, the battered Civic Democrats launched an anonymous campaign under the slogan vote for the right. In view of extreme public discontent with the performance of the former center-right government, right wing parties had to abandon the traditional line of campaigning and are presenting themselves as defenders of democratic values against the increasingly autocratic rule of the president and the growing influence of the Communist Party. Left-of-centre, the Social Democrats, who were slated to win the elections, were fighting their own internal battle for unity against the influence of President Zemans supporters inside the party and the growing ambitions of the Citizens Rights Party-Zemanites who were seeking to win over Social Democrat and Communist Party voters.

For months public surveys slated the political left to come away the biggest winners, with the Social Democrats first and the Communists coming a possible third. A strong finish for the leftists could mean a return to power after six years for the Social Democrats and arguably a stronger role for the Communist Party, shunned after 1989 for failing to break with its past. The Communists could tacitly support a Social Democrat minority government and together with a left-dominated Senate and a president who once led the Social Democratic Party, the future could look very different. But with days left before a vote for the Czech lower house, the front-running Social Democrats seemed to be losing steam, with a slow but steady decline in their voter support. On top of that, an analysis of nine different election polls by the ppm factum agency questioned the partys chances of forming a left-wing coalition after the election, mainly due to a sudden surge by the untested ANO party.

Czech Social Democrats won a slim victory in a parliamentary election on 26 October 2013, but faced a tough task forming a government after voter anger over sleaze and budget cuts propelled new protest parties into parliament. Bohuslav Sobotka's center-left, pro-European Social Democrats had 21 percent of the vote, well short of the 30 percent they had targeted and in need of more than one coalition partner to build a stable government.

Three months after general elections, the final obstacles on the path to the appointment of a new Czech government were cleared in January 2014. Just short of three months after the Social Democrats came first in general elections, obstacles on the path to the appointment of a coalition Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotkahe put together with ANO and the Christian Democrats fell away one by one. President Milo Zeman was willing to swallow his avowed misgivings about the abilities or backgrounds of several members of the proposed 17-seat cabinet. After weeks of sniping at them, there had been fears that Zeman would reject some candidates, potentially sparking a constitutional crisis. Some regarded a series of unprecedented meetings the president had been conducting with ministerial candidates as another baffling delaying tactic on the part of Zeman, and a concession to the first elected head of state.

Andrej Babi' party is the clear favorite for the upcoming October 2017 general elections. Billionaire media mogul Andrej Babi entered politics with his Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party six years ago, he has won the 2014 European Parliament election, finished second in the countrys 2013 parliamentary election, and joined the coalition government as a deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Babi and Zeman, who have consistently adopted the position of representatives of the honest citizens against the unfair elites. What differs Babi from Polish and Hungarian leaders is that hes pragmatic.

In May 2017 the electoral campaigns ahead of the parliamentary elections and the January 2018 presidential election escalated into a serious clash between the three most important politicians in the country: the prime minister and chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), Bohuslav Sobotka; the deputy prime minister, finance minister and leader of the ANO movement, Andrej Babi; and President Milo Zeman. This clash led to a series of chaotic moves by the prime minister on the resignation of the government, and a constitutional dispute between prime minister and president.

The list of allegations Sobotka made against Babi is long: starting from doubts as to the sources of his wealth, via immoral or illegal methods of tax evasion, and suspected fraud while applying for EU grants (this case is being examined by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office), to the use of the media to fight his political opponents (including ministers in the coalition). These allegations have been repeated for at least a year, and are rooted in the conflict of interest which Babi has found himself in since 2014, as finance minister, the owner of the agro-chemical company Agrofert, and of a range of influential media outlets. In January 2017 Babis business assets were handed over to a trust fund; however, that trust fund is co-managed by the deputy prime ministers partner Monika, whom he was planning to marry.





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