The Civic Democrats and the Mayors and Independents gained 10 and seven seats, respectively, in elections to one-third of seats in the Senate that concluded at the weekend. In stark contrast, governing parties ANO and the Social Democrats won only one mandate apiece. Though ANO’s poor showing has vexed leader Andrej Babiš, the outcome was not unexpected, says political scientist Petr Just.
“The Senate actually works as a kind of balance chamber towards the lower chamber of Parliament.
“So it’s no surprise, actually, that the party that is leading the government and has the strongest position in the lower chamber does not succeed in upper chamber elections.
“This is not a new situation. It’s a new situation for Mr. Babiš, so this is why he’s reacting the way he is, but it’s not a new situation in Czech politics in general.
“We have seen several times before that the party that was in charge of the government lost these mid-term Senate elections.
“The second factor, I would say, is that Mr. Babiš has for a long time been undermining the position of the Senate, talking in general very critically against the Senate and doubting whether it has any sense to exist.
“These statements actually don’t help ANO candidates.
“I would say that by undermining the Senate’s position, Mr. Babiš also undermines the candidates of his own movement in the Senate elections.”
The Civic Democrats were among the big winners in the Senate elections and seem to be back as a major force in Czech politics. Does that prove they were right to refuse to enter a coalition with ANO?
“Following a crisis after the 2013 elections, the Civic Democratic Party has been, I would say, undergoing several rehabilitation steps.
“One of them was to stay away from the government of Andrej Babiš in order to maybe strengthen their position as an opposition force and therefore to increase the possibility of winning the next elections.
“So actually their position to stay away and to appear as the biggest challenger of the current government led by ANO is one of the reasons why this party is catching the votes of opposition voters.”
The Social Democrats gained only one seat in the Senate elections and the Communists now have no seats in the upper house for the first time. What do the results of the Senate elections tell us about the position of the Czech left right now?
“The Communist Party has never been very successful in Senate elections.
“They are held in a two-round system, with voters voting more consensually in the second round.
“It was obvious since the first Senate elections in 1996 – and we’ve seen it since then at every Senate elections – that Communist Party candidates, or in general any candidates of parties on the extreme left or extreme right, were much less successful in gaining support in the second round.
Because in the second round you have to address the voters of other political parties, of other political formations.
“But also we have to say that the left-wing agenda, and therefore also left-wing voters, have been taken over by ANO and Andrej Babiš.
“So it’s also not so surprising in this context, as we have already seen the steep decline of left-wing parties’ results in last fall’s Chamber of Deputies elections, and this is just a continuation of that.
“In the case of the Social Democratic Party, they’ve always been present in the Senate, but their results have reflected whether the party has been in opposition or in government.”
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