The Social Democrats ruled the regional elections 17-18 October, dealing a major blow to the governing Civic Democrats just months before the Czech Republic takes over the EU presidency. The results also cast doubt on the planned US anti-missile radar, as the opposition is strongly against stationing the device on Czech soil.
Jiří Paroubek’s left-leaning Social Democrats (ČSSD) dominated the polls in all 13 regions, taking 36% of the vote, 13% ahead of the conservative Civic Democrats (ODS), which currently have 12 out of the 13 regional officers.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Czech TV Sunday the results were a wake-up call for his party. “A slap has been dealt to us in the right moment,” he said. “If the ODS manage to understand it well, the elections are actually not lost at all.”
The ČSSD, meanwhile, presented their victory as a clear rejection of the ruling coalition’s unpopular reforms. “The voters want change,” Paroubek said on Czech TV.
None of Topolánek’s coalition partners fared well. The Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) took just under 7% of the vote, while the Greens failed to attain even the 5% minimum required to have government representatives.
Another blow to the coalition was the success of the communists (KSČM) who came in third, gaining significant clout in post-election negotiations. The ČSSD has expressed a willingness to join forces with the KSČM to cobble together local governments.
The 40% election turnout was significantly higher than what pollsters predicted.
The ČSSD also did well in the first round of the Senate elections, which took place Friday and Saturday as well, winning one seat so far and leading in 19 out of the remaining 25 constituencies. According to political analysts, even a possible ODS win in the second round of the Senate vote 24-25 October will be overshadowed by the ČSSD’s regional victory.
Although the power reshuffle weakens Topolánek’s position, it does not necessarily presuppose a government collapse, analysts say.
The coalition government faces a no-confidence vote Wednesday, but with the Chamber of Deputies evenly split between the rulers and the opposition, it is unlikely the ČSSD will succeed in toppling Topolánek’s cabinet.