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Cleaning up after the party

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Jan Fischer will be prime minister longer than he expected. Unhinged politics are running wild. The elections won’t be this year but next spring. Maybe. Sooner or later we’ll have elections, but the probability is 0.1%. It all depends on in what mood our politicians wake up in the morning. It’s as though you were trying to shop in a store that has secret opening hours. That’s the level of service that tax payers are getting from their politicians.

What can the Czech Republic expect if elections take place in the spring of 2010? Here’s a brief overview of the changes that Social Democrats’ decision not to support early elections will bring about.

  • Fisher’s government will either become stronger or resign. Politicians will either accept his condition that the budget deficit be kept at under CZK 170 billion or the PM will walk away, along with his entire team. The debate over Janota’s budget-saving measures (a lot is at stake: taxes, social benefits and so on) will also show whether Fischer’s government is able to stick to its guns or if will let itself be volleyed back and forth until the next election. In other words, if it will give in and introduce a scrapping fee, raise pensions and so on.
  • If Fischer’s cabinet stays in power it will need to make decisions it did not count on doing. This includes the privatisation of ČSA, among others, the appointment of the EU commissioner, awarding the CZK 100 billion to clean petrol-contaminated ponds. These responsibilities could awake in the members of the current cabinet unexpected political ambitions.
  • “So, we’ve started packing,” ODS deputy František Laudát told Týden this July. “I’ve deleted all my emails. I know my time will be up in September,” he said. He and his colleagues got to enjoy a nice long holiday, but now they must return back to work. Some laws have been lying around the Chamber of Deputies since 2007.
  • Mirek Topolánek has given up his MP immunity.
  • The election campaign posters will disappear, the socialists will put their orange truck back in the garage. Pre-election trips will need to be kept low-budget. The campaign will move behind closed doors. The fight over public opinions will become more intense, and more about influencing media. New scandals will bubble up to the surface. Lobbyists of all sorts will step up their activities.
  • Politicians have another few months to try to change the election law. They have been talking for years how the current law does not work, thanks to the stalemates it’s allowed to happen. But no one has thus far taken any steps toward changing that law, and it’s likely that won’t change anytime soon.
  • Any negotiations between political leaders will be very difficult given the current set-up. There is a crisis of trust in Czech politics, especially when it comes to Jiří Paroubek.
  • The years between 2006 and 2010 will be remembered in Czech history as political treading of water. After the 2006 stalemate, the government took several months to form, then failed to win the vote of confidence, then a second government was formed with the support of renegade deputies. It managed to function but didn’t have the strength to push through many significant reforms (such as the pension reform). Since March 2009, an interim government is running the country.
  • The 2010 elections will probably turn out well for the left and for populist parities. If the voter turn out is low, the Communists could gain as much as 20% of the vote. Highly populist, xenophobic parties, such as the Workers’ Party will continue to gain influence. The reason: greater and greater disgust with politics and a continuing recession.
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