You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 Opposition agreement under pressure

Opposition agreement under pressure

The so-called opposition agreement that was signed by the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) last year has come under pressure following the resounding defeat of the two parties’ candidates in a Senate race in Prague by Vaclav Fischer, an independent candidate. Fischer won the Senate seat with more than 71 percent of the popular vote, while Jirina Jiraskova, the ODS candidate, won only 12 percent of the popular vote. Only 370 voters cast their votes for the CSSD candidate, Karel Srp.

The main theme of Fischer’s electoral campaign was his criticism of the opposition agreement under which the ODS allowed the CSSD to create a minority government after the last year’s elections. He rejected arguments that the agreement was the only way out of the political deadlock created by the elections. He joined those critics of the agreement who have called it a power-sharing pact between the two parties, whose main aim was to destroy small parties and limit the power of the president. Fischer’s victory shows that an overwhelming majority of voters in central Prague tended to agree with him.

Immediately after the election, both the ODS’s election strategy (which was based on negative campaigning) and the opposition agreement came under attack from some ODS leaders, such as ODS Deputy Chairman Miroslav Macek and Prague Mayor Jan Kasl. They have realized that keeping the agreement alive has begun to harm the ODS more than it helps the party. They will, however, have to fight an uphill battle against ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus, who staunchly defends the pact.

Fischer’s victory is only the first serious blow that the opposition agreement has suffered. The agreement will come under more pressure when the CSSD submits its draft state budget for the year 2000. Last year the budget was approved by the parliament because the CSSD was able to secure support from the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). Its deputies, however, voted for the budget mainly because a majority coalition between the CSSD, the KDU-CSL and the center-right Union of Freedom still seemed possible at that time. Any hope for such a coalition disappeared this summer when Zeman and Klaus both praised the opposition agreement on its first anniversary, ruling out it could be abolished any time soon.

If the budget is to pass, the CSD will have to persuade the ODS to support it this time. However, some ODS leaders have indicated that such a deal is out of question. The party that has repatedly mobilized voters against “a leftist danger,” while keeping a socialist government alive, would totally discredit itself, should it help a socialist budget to pass.

The ODS is also growing impatient with the CSSD’s delaying tactics with regard to a new electoral law. While both parties have agreed that the number of electoral districts should rise from the current eight to some 35—a change that would benefit large parties—they are unable to agree on other details, including the date on which the law should go into effect. The CSSD would like the law to go into effect only in the year 2002, shortly before the next regular parliamentary elections, while the ODS is pushing for an earlier date. The ODS’s version of the law would favor the victorious party to such an extent that a party wining a mere 30% of the popular vote could gain more than 50% of seats in the parliament. The CSSD, whose popularity has dropped sharply in recent months, is justifiably afraid that it would commit a political suicide by allowing an early adoption of the ODS’s version of the law.

The ODS may offer to the CSSD that it will support the budget in exchange for the CSSD’s concessions on the electoral law. However, there will be much resistance within the CSSD against supporting an electoral law that could threaten the party’s future; and there will be much resistance within the ODS against supporting a socialist budget. Should such a deal not be made, however, the usefulness of the opposition agreement will be questioned. Given the fact it is already under attack from important members of both parties, the agreement may not survive the end of 1999.

Reuters - 2. 9. 1999