Saturday, 26 May 2018

Respekt: KDU-ČSL's decision to cooperate with STAN is good

28 March 2017

Prague, March 27 (CTK) - The Czech junior government Christian Democrats' (KDU-CSL) decision to form an election coalition with the opposition Mayors and Independents (STAN) movement is at variance with the overcautious policy they have pursued as yet, and it is good, Marek Svehla writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday.

The two entities decided to form a coalition for the October general election earlier this month. Some political analysts say this is risky since a two-party coalition needs to gain 10 percent of the vote in the election, while a party running on its own only needs 5 percent.

Svehla writes that the KDU-CSL's critics and opponents often say the party somehow finds place in every government in which it protects its interests.

He writes that this rather reflects the malevolence of the party's opponents because defending one's own interests is the very essence of politics.

Svehla also writes that Czech democracy should rather be glad that it has at least one party that is capable of reaching agreement with both the socialists and conservatives, while it is clearly pro-reform, pro-European, predictable and free of any big scandals.

Even though the KDU-CSL explains on its web page how advantageous it is in the Czech proportional election system to have more than 10 percent of the vote since this markedly increases the coalition's number of lawmakers and the influence on the operation of the state, yet the next seven months to go to the election will not be peaceful for it.

In 2010, the KDU-CSL did not cross the 5 percent parliamentary barrier and it cost it a lot of work to return to the Chamber of Deputies in 2013, Svehla writes.

But despite all the obstacles which still lie on the path to the election, the Christian Democrats should hold out because they help cultivate the Czech state, Svehla writes.

He writes that the new coalition will have to formulate its joint programme and lists of candidates. The KDU-CSL will hold its party congress in May and it is not ruled out that its Moravian wing, which is opposed to the coalition, will attempt to reopen the question of its formation, especially now that pre-election voter preferences are far from the 10 percent needed.

Svehla writes that the government ANO movement of billionaire Andrej Babis now dominates the trend towards asserting oneself with boldness. With interconnecting politics, media and business dependent on the state, Babis fulfils the definition on a post-communist oligarch, Svehla adds.

He writes that mainstream parties have been losing momentum (senior government Social Democrats, CSSD), or they play a secondary role (the KDU-CSL, the opposition Civic Democrats, ODS).

Besides this, various attempts to reach top politics based on civic activities (Public Affairs, VV) have been made, some take over foreign models (extra-parliamentary Pirates) and there are solo projects of distinctive political personalities attempting to extend their stay in power (opposition TOP 09 of Miroslav Kalousek who has succeeded Karel Schwarzenberg), Svehla writes.

He writes that none of these entities put effort into building a really big party that would survive the initial enthusiasm or their founders' personal ambitions.
However, the coalitions of established parties are a natural and democratically sound process, which should lead to the building of strong political players with reform ambitions, Svehla writes.

He writes that this is so because democrats rather than conceited excentrics with radical intentions will reach agreement on them.

But the founding of coalitions is complicated by the inheritance of the opposition agreement which former CSSD chairman Milos Zeman and ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus signed in 1998, Svehla writes.

Under it, the ODS supported the CSSD minority government in exchange for a portion of influence until 2002.
Svehla writes that with the opposition agreement, Zeman and Klaus tried to prevent the formation of similar coalitions that could beat them. That is why they set the minimum support such entities would need to enter the Chamber of Deputies.

A two-party coalition needs 10 percent of the vote, a coalition of three parties 15 percent, a coalition of four parties 20 percent.

Svehla writes that these limits are against the logic of the proportional election system and they should be eased. But there is not enough time left by the autumn election and it is possible that there will never be enough time because the large parties are not even now interested in allowing any competition.

They can only be beaten by the political boldness and self-confidence which the KDU-CSL has shown now, Svehla writes and adds that STAN, on the other hand, has nothing to lose.

The KDU-CSL/STAN coalition is a new force from the point of quality, assuming the features of a large party. Preserving elementary values, it combines various points of view of the world and new personalities with a more colourful experience and greater ambitions, and it cover the whole Czech Republic, Svehla writes.

He writes that it also represents some progress on the symbolic level: connecting is sounder than dividing, the sharing of values is better than seeking differences, courage is better than fear.

For the good condition of Czech democracy, it would not be sound if only Babis and the CSSD competed for leading the state. No better rival than the KDU-CSL/STAN coalition is on the horizon, Svehla writes.

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