Andrej Babis

Petr Dubinsky

Czech Court Opens Way For Smaller Parties As October Election Nears

The Czech Republic’s top court on Wednesday cancelled a clause in its election law that favoured bigger political parties, leaving lawmakers scrambling to agree amendments before a parliamentary election called for October.

The ruling struck down the method for allocating mandates in the 200-seat lower house of parliament. The Constitutional Court deemed the current method unfair to smaller parties, which have had to win more votes to gain one seat than larger parties.

The changes could affect the Oct. 8-9 election with changes to the law that are likely to result in more mandates for smaller parties at the expense of larger ones including Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO.

Babis said the court was undermining trust in the constitutional system by acting in an untimely way just ahead of the election, allowing scant time for adjustment.

“The timing is clear evidence of a purpose-built, political decision,” he said, adding that the change could lead to a more fragmented parliament.

“From a relatively stable political system, where a winner can form a functional government, (the country) is going down the path of Italy with a new government every year.”

Babis’s ANO party leads opinion polls but a centrist opposition coalition of the Pirate Party and the STAN mayors’ movement is closely behind.

No single party or current bloc of parties has a realistic chance of winning a majority in October, and whoever forms the next cabinet will need to look for more partners.

Under existing rules, the ANO received 78 seats in the 2017 election with 19,232 votes for each one, compared with 43,693 votes the STAN party needed for each of its six seats.

The disproportion was caused by a division of the central European country into 14 regions with uneven populations, which meant that, under the existing seat-allocation rules, small parties won no seats in the smallest regions.

To offset that disadvantage, the five main opposition parties united into two stronger blocs in recent months.

The law must be amended before the October vote, giving the two chambers of parliament little time to agree on rules that would serve most while satisfying the court ruling.