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Why the elections are off

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The Social Democrats made a surprising u-turn once again. From one day to another, the party changed stance on early elections. Why?

Jiří Paroubek said there was one reason only: the fear that someone will again attack early elections via the Constitutional Court. “The feasibility of this alternative–that is, the rescission of the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies or even cancelation of elections that have already taken place–is unacceptable for ČSSD. No responsible political party can give way to such a risk,” Paroubek said.

This argument isn’t all that unwarranted but the issue is that just a few days ago—hours, in fact— ČSSD argued that early elections—as early as possible–are in the best interest of this country. According to the party then, the feeble interim government couldn’t have ruled the nation for a day longer.

Today, Paroubek says: “The Czech Republic needs a stabile government more than ever and Fischer’s cabinet must take on this responsibility. We have to approve a state budget, and, to do so, we need a functioning Chamber of Deputies. We have to retain citizens’ trust in a functional state, its institutions and its leaders.”

What’s fueling the change? Even before the decision, a number of Social Democrats noted that November is a bad time for the ČSSD. It’s when the 20th anniversary of the end of communism is celebrated and it is well known that ČSSD claimed that the party would govern with the backing of the communists. This would offer itself as a handy and easily-misused topic for other parties to use in campaigns.

There’ one more possible reason, though, suggested by the previously-mentioned Paroubek’s quote: the state budget. In its generous-state campaign, ČSSD promises a number of social perks and benefits. The thought of winning the elections and having to put together one of the most complicated budgets in contemporary history a few days later surely scares the party. When Paroubek now says that “Jan Fischer’s government must take on this responsibility” for the budget, he is suggesting that Social Democrats are hoping that the interim government will take on the burden. But that’s not how it will happen. Political parties in the chamber must approve the budget and will bear responsibility for their votes.

The ČSSD once again proved that it lets itself be dragged around by current developments and that it improvises chaotically. First it brought down the government without a prepared alternative; then it endorsed early elections, but once it was no longer working out in the party’s favour, Social Democrats turned their back on it. All this reeks of shame–but not only for ČSSD. The Czech Republic is becoming unreadable to other states.

So, early election will most likely not happen in November; June is more probable.

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