You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 Smaller Czech parties band together for coalition

Smaller Czech parties band together for coalition

Four small right-of-center parties that created a coalition last that won the Senate elections last fall are currently engaged in discussions about forming possibly one political subject that could challenge the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Vaclav Klaus, the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Milos Zeman, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in the next general elections. Talks between the four parties—the Union of Freedom (US), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and the Democratic Union (DEU)—have, however, been difficult, as each of the four parties has different ideas as to how intensely the four political subjects should cooperate.

ODA leaders have been the most radical of the four subjects when they proposed at the beginning of September the creation of a new political formation that would be called the Union for Europe. Leaders of the US, the KDU-CSL, and the DEU have responded with caution. The KDU-CSL and the US, both of which are represented in both chambers of Parliament, are apparently worried that the ODA, who has several Senators in the upper chamber but no deputies in the lower chamber, is trying to use the more successful political parties to return to the mainstream of the Czech Republic’s politics. The DEU, which has only one Senator in the Senate, and the US and the KDU-CSL are apparently also uneasy about the fact that ODA has large debts.

There are also ideological differences among the four parties. While the US has portrayed itself as a liberal party, the ODA is a conservative party, and the DEU represents a combination of both ideologies. The KDU-CSL defines itself as a right-of-center Christian democratic party, but it stands to the left of the political center on many issues. The task of merging such different political parties into one political formation which would have a coherent political program, would be difficult.

It, therefore, seems that the four parties will try to create an alliance that will fall short of a merger but at the same time will be more than just a pre-election coalition. One way to do so is to form a joint leadership that would represent the four-party formation in dealings with other political parties and the public. The four parties will probably also consider having a common political leader—perhaps a personality not intimately connected with any of the four parties. Such a lose formation could agree on a joint political program, without any of the four parties giving up its own ideological identity. In addition to agreeing on common objectives, the most important task of the four parties is to make certain that they speak with one language. Should the chairmen of the four parties voice views that are different from the views of the formation’s joint leadership, the entire project would soon collapse.

Forming a firmer alliance will be a difficult. The cooperation of the four parties is not a natural process; rather it is being forced on them by political developments outside their control. The most important reason for closer cooperation is the intention of the ODS and the CSSD to change the electoral system in such a way that would benefit large parties. Although the ODS and the CSSD currently differ in their views on how much the largest parties should benefit from a new electoral system, parties with less than 15 percent in popular support would be threatened with not winning any seats in the parliament’s lower chamber under both the CSSD’s and the ODS’s proposals.

It seems unlikely at this point that the ODS and the CSSD will be able to agree on a new electoral system. Since the CSSD’s popularity has dropped to some 15 percent since the last year’s general elections, the party’s political future could be threatened, should it allow a new electoral system to be adopted now. However, the four small parties cannot probably wait for the CSSD’s decision on the electoral system. The political situation in the country is such that early elections are a possibility. The four parties, therefore, must try to create the image of political unity as soon as possible. On the other hand, it is quite likely that their alliance, if they indeed manage to create one, would fall apart, should it become clear that the electoral law project of the ODS and the CSSD will not materialize. The four parties would have even fewer incentives to seek unity, should the so-called opposition agreement under which the ODS and the CSSD have cooperated be terminated.

Prague Business Journal - 27. 9. 1999