Election Elections in Czech Republic Left-wing parties winners

Two elections took place in the Czech Republic the last weekend, October 12 and 13, 2012. The left-wing parties were the winners in both elections: The first round of the senate election and in the election to the regional assemblies. The second round of the senate election will take place on Friday, October 19th and Saturday, 20th, 2012.

Published on balticworlds.com on October 19, 2012

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Two elections took place in the Czech Republic the last  weekend,  October 12 and 13, 2012. The left-wing parties were the winners in both elections: The first round of the senate election and in the election to the regional assemblies. The second round of the senate election will take place on Friday, October 19th and Saturday, 20th, 2012. Whereas the Social Democrats (ČSSD) won in actual number of votes in the regional elections, the real winner  in terms of increased support was the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM). At the same time the leading governmental party, the right-wing ODS, suffered a significant loss. None  of the elections attracted the voters  and the turnout was low: 34,9 % (senate), 36,9% (regional).

The victory of the communists has caused a heated debate on the future position of the Communist party in  Czech politics. The result is believed to have consequences on the  next parliamentary elections as well as on the presidential election scheduled to be held in January next year. This will be the first direct election for presidency in the history of the Czech Republic. The strong electoral support of the communists  in the regional elections is not unique,   in the regional elections of  2000 was higher (21,1%). What makes the present situation different from the electoral success  twelve years ago is the approach of the Social Democrats towards the communists. Immediately after the polls, the Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka stated that the party is ready to plan a future government with the communists. This statement by the ČSSD leader is historical, because throughout the 22 years after the collapse of communism in 1989 the Communist party has been deliberately excluded from  government.

According to  Czech commentators in media stated  that there is a serious chance the Communist Party will return in  government with the Social Democrats (ČSSD) after  the next general elections.  In the  regional elections the Social Democrats actually lost 12 % of votes compared to the previous regional elections, which strengthens the communist relative political weight..

The result of the October elections is related  to a highly politicised debate on the historical and present role of the communists in the country. The Czech Communist Party is the only communist party in the region that was not reformed or even renamed after 1989. According to the public  opinion, the present party does  not significantly differ from the party that governed the country before the Velvet Revolution. But being forced to remain in opposition, the party has managed to avoid great controversies – that have unfortunately been common to the ruling parties of the country. The communists have become the only party in the Czech parliament that has  not been involved in any scandals – a fact that has without doubt explains the increased their support. Twenty-two years of democratic rule have been long enough to show the flaws of the post-socialist society and of the non-communist parties. The position of the Czech communist party differs historically from most other post-socialist countries. Unlike elsewhere, in the former Czechoslovakia the communists won the free elections in 1946 and the party has traditionally enjoyed more support there than communist parties in any of the neighbouring states.

The post-1989 policy towards the Communist party has contributed  to an opposite situation contrary to expectations – the party has not died out but rather  increased its popularity. The Czech Republic did not force the party to rename itself or significantly reform its programme. but has nevertheless been  excluded from  government since 1989. This practise has annoyed many people because it does not correspond with democratic principles. On the other hand, this has enabled the communists to avoid taking responsibility of the political decision-making  also in times of crisis. Interestingly, unlike  many other countries, no populist right-wing party that mobilises voters  on anti-immigration, minorities and corruption has gained roots in the Czech Republic. According to some local commentators, the Czech communists formulate policies  similar to successful right-wing populist political parties   elsewhere. The Communist Party uses  populist rhetoric and in this vein its success can be compared to other populist parties, such as Jörg Haider’s FPO in Austria or Perussuomalaiset (True Finns) in Finland.

The reasons for the success of the Communist Party can  to a great extent be explained by  mistakes made by  other parties,  and which have resulted in  frustrations and disappointments among the voters.. The ruling parties have never had  such a bad result in regional elections before. The ruling party ODS has implemented cost cuts and pursued ineffective tax policy, not to mention its involvement   in corruption scandals. According to a local analyst, the failure of the ruling parties would have not been so significant had the government shown willingness to correct its reforms and fiscal policy and admitted that it has not been able to secure economic growth as expected. In the Czech Republic, the loss of confidence in the government had decreased to only 17 % before the elections.

The result of the election has caused attention especially in the neighbouring states. The Austrian Der Standard analysed the victory of the communists as amnesia. According to this type of analyses the Czechs have forgotten the past mistakes of the Communists and thus treat them as a party without past. However, calling the success of the Communists as amnesia is misleading. The party did not cease to exist after the collapse of communism and there is continuation in its support. Its popularity rather tells that it has maintained support and that after the collapse of the communist rule many voters  were  without a attractive  political alternative. Perhaps nostalgia is a better term to analyse the success than amnesia. This nostalgia is not present in the Czech media. There, anti-communist rhetoric has by large dominated the debate on the elections. The journalists offer historical explanations as arguments in emphasising the threat of involving the communists in government. According to  mainstream commentators, people who vote for communists are either ignorant or irresponsible. The anti-communist rhetoric tends to turn the blind eye to the real problems of the present government and the economic and societal problems in the country, which has developed during a   20 years when  non-communist political parties have ruled.  

 The October elections can be interpreted  as a protest vote against the ruling political parties. The low  voter  turnout  indicates voter fatigue. Moreover, the number of invalid votes was exceptionally high and further suggests have  protest voting. According to statistics, the number of invalid votes was twice as high than  in previous elections  and analysts  motivate this to  appeals  made by a number of public initiatives who advised people to go to the polls but cast an empty envelope.  

At the moment talks are taking place on the forming regional governments. The Social Democrats cannot be satisfied with the result because they failed to defend their 2008 victory. The party has been involved  in corruption scandals and has  probably lost votes to  the communists. On the other side, Petr Nečas’ government will have to decide upon concrete measures  soon if the ODS wishes to remain a strong political party. The ruling president Václav Klaus is not on  good terms with the ODS leader and has been said  to have complicated the election campaign of the ODS (the party he once established but is no longer a member of). One thing is certain – the communists will have more of a say on political issues than ever before in the history of the Czech Republic. 

The results of the senate election (first round):

The Social Democrats (ČSSD) – 23 candidates for the second round
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) – 12 candidates for the second round
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) – 10 candidates for the second round


The election for the Czech senate. The senate has 81 members, in single-seat constituencies elected by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one third renewed every even year in the autumn. The second round for the one third will be held on October 19 and 20.
October: The regional elections: every four years. 13 regions (excluding Prague).
Forthcoming: Presidential election. The President of the Czech Republic was indirectly elected for five-year terms until 2012; beginning with the 2013 election in January, direct elections with run-off rounds will be held.

 The main political parties of the Czech Republic:

 The Civic Democratic Party (Občanská demokratická strana, ODS) is liberal-conservative. Leader Petr Nečas (Prime minister). The party has been in the government since 2006.
The Czech Social Democratic Party (Česká strana sociálně demokratická, ČSSD). Leader Bohuslav Sobotka.
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM). Communist party led by Vojtěch Filip.
The Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL): Christian democratic right-wing party. Leader Pavel Bělobrádek.

Regional elections, results:

Main Parties Percentage of votes Mandates
The Social Democrats (ČSSD) 23,58% Before Now
280 205
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) 20,43% 114 182
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) 12,28% 180 102
The Christian and Democratic Union (KDU–ČSL) 5,82% 56 42 (61)
  • Dolphin

    The EU enlargement will have some sideeffects,from Eastern Europe, from Hungary, and others as Greece, what not can be blamed at the former com-munist´s rule. The EU-system gave some stability, but even unemployment, an austerity measures. The lesson is: ” A system that breeds too many dependencies, itself, becomes vulnerable to instabilities at the periphery.”

    This clientstate-philosophy (with EU´s peaceful means) to change, the geo-political balance in Europe, strikes back at the center. As for instance, the war between Georgia and Russia, 2008. ” No one could help Georgia, then. But Georgia could have derailed the general detante and peace, in Europe, if Sweden, Poland, the Baltic states, had been EU-chairman, and not France, and Sarkozy. 

  • by Riikka Nisonen

    PhD, is researcher in the Aleksanteri Instititute (The Finnish Centre of East European and Russian Studies) of the University of Helsinki. She recieved her PhD in history at the University of Tampere in 2012.

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  • Election coverage

    Baltic Worlds Election Coverage online is commenting on the elections taking place in the region.. The comments and analyses present the parties, the candidates and the main issues of the election, as well as analyze the implications of the results.

    Sofie Bedford, member of the scientific advisory board, is since 2015 arranging the election coverage.

    Contact: sofie.bedford@ucrs.uu.se