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New Energy in Politics vs. the Politics of Energy

A fresh political force is about to enter Czech parliamentary politics — the Green Party (SZ). Its sudden surge in opinion polls has surprised some, but it’s been long overdue.

The Czech Republic is one of Europe’s most ecologically damaged countries and, as a result, the country’s various green movements have always been strong. Had it not been for internal conflicts, the Greens would have made it into Parliament a long time ago.

The election of Martin Bursík to the post of party chairman last fall finally gave the Greens the credibility they were lacking. Bursík has been clever in emphasizing that the Czech Greens are neither a one-issue party, nor are they necessarily, like most other Greens in Europe, a leftist party. Bursík also stresses that his party has little to do with the current establishment.

The party, therefore, appeals to several constituencies: traditional environmentalists, left-leaning liberals and people who until recently claimed they had no one to vote for. The pool of liberals is potentially large because various small liberal parties have all but disappeared, and the ruling Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) has abandoned centrist voters in its attempts to attract voters from the Communists (KSČM). Voters who had “no one to vote for” are, on the other hand, attracted to the Green Party because it’s a new political voice, untainted by various corruption scandals, and it now appears to be poised to win the minimum 5 percent vote to qualify it for parliamentary representation.

Although in most European countries the Green Party would be a natural coalition partner for the Social Democrats, Bursík has been quite nebulous when it comes to identifying coalition partners he might work with after the elections. According to him, the Greens will cooperate with the party (or parties) that can accommodate the largest portion of the party’s “green agenda.”

However, there’s one issue where a compromise will be very difficult: with the exception of the Greens, all parties that are likely to be represented in the next Parliament advocate nuclear energy. Given that a majority of Czechs support nuclear energy, it’s very unlikely that either of the two large parties that are likely to win the elections — the ČSSD or the conservative Civic Democrats (ODS) — will want to make concessions on this issue.

President Václav Klaus (ODS) said the country should further develop its nuclear energy sector to make the Czech Republic less dependent on oil and gas imported from politically unstable countries. He added that Europe needs to extricate itself from the dictate of “green lobbies.” The ČSSD is closely intertwined with the energy sector. Both the ČSSD and Czech energy giant ČEZ envisage building new nuclear power plants, or expanding existing ones (see story, page 1).

This position makes it difficult for the ČSSD to offer the electorate what some of its politicians propose: a program that is more “green” than that of the Greens. And the party’s ties to the energy sector complicate possible post-election talks.

At any rate, difficult as it might be for the Greens to join a new government, the party’s possible participation in government politics represents a breath of fresh air. A great deal of high-level corruption has been caused by the fact that five political parties have dominated Czech politics for a long time, creating a fairly closed system. Corruption cuts across the political spectrum. In this respect, the arrival of a new political player is good news.

Czech Business Weekly, 6 March 2006