Parliamentarism is, by definition, a political system based on the creation of consensus, from the concessions of the different actors involved, forming coalitions. Parliamentary systems in which coalition is not a necessity are uncommon. Furthermore, due to the particular electoral rules of each country, it is possible for a party to get a lot of votes nationally, but these votes do not translate into victories in the districts. The combination of these two factors means that, in the parliamentary system, winning the election does not necessarily mean “taking” the election.
In the Czech Republic, or Czechia, the population went to the polls last Saturday. Competing for re-election was Andrej Babiš, prime minister since 2017 and leader of the YEAR 2011 since 2012. He has led the polls almost unchallenged, suffering some hits in his popularity in recent months. Czechia was one of the ten countries in the world with the most deaths per inhabitant due to the pandemic and started its vaccination campaign relatively late. In addition, Babiš, the second richest man in his country, had his name wrapped around the Pandora Papers.
The leak of nearly twelve million tax and legal documents revealed secret accounts kept in offshore by 35 political leaders, such as presidents, prime ministers and ministers, as well as dozens of celebrities, businessmen and others. In Brazil, the most prominent names involved were the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, and the President of the Central Bank, Roberto Campos Neto. Czech police have promised to investigate all citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers, including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
The prime minister, in turn, denied any irregularities, stating that his fiscal situation is fully regularized. He also claimed that the leak was aimed precisely at influencing national legislative elections. Jordan’s King Abdullah II had similar rhetoric, claiming that the leak was intended to “hit Jordan.” The question remains whether it is self-centeredness or petty politics to declare that a leak of this size and repercussion targeted a specific politician or election, disregarding the literally trillions of dollars involved.
The most voted and the first
The result of all this was that Babiš, who even flirted with 30% of the votes in the polls, took 27.1%, 2.5% less than in the previous election. His party was left with 72 seats, losing six. The most voted political alliance was the Spolu, “Together”, headed by the Civic Democratic Party, with 27.8% of the votes and 71 seats. Yes, the reader read it right. The party with the most votes was not the one with the most seats, due to district proportions. This was the first episode of “Won but Didn’t Take” in this election, the most voted one didn’t come first.
Two other acronyms will complete the parliament. PaS, formed by the Pirate Party and independent candidates, especially mayors, local political leaders. The theme of European pirate parties has not yet appeared here in our space, but, in short, it is not a joke, nor does it involve the looting of Spanish galleons. These are parties usually formed on digital platforms, by young activists, with guidelines such as greater government transparency and greater popular participation, via technology, something that, adapted from English, is called e-democracy.
Some small local experiments have already been done. For example, a city with only a few thousand inhabitants abolishes its House of Representatives and votes its agendas online. Each citizen, armed with digital certification, would have one vote, without the election of an intermediary representative, such as a councilor. PaS got 15.6% of the votes, winning 37 out of 200 seats, a growth of nine seats. Much of this result, however, is due to the mayors of medium-sized cities, while the pirates concentrate their results, more timid, in Prague.
Finally, the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party won 9.6% of the votes and twenty seats, losing two. Ideologically speaking, the Czech parliament will be from the center, with the PaS, and from the right, with the other three acronyms having many similarities in economics and social conservatism. The differences are that the YEAR 2011 is personalized around Babiš and the relationship with the European Union. Of the three, the SPD is the most radical, against the EU, participating in NATO and advocating tighter restrictions against the presence of immigrants in the country.
The “irony” is that the SPD leader is called Tomio Okamura, a name that doesn’t evoke a sense of Czech traditionalism. The businessman was born and raised in Japan, his father’s land, while his mother is Czech, named Helena Holíková. Just an anecdote, no value judgment. Returning to parliament, the two main left-wing parties in the Czechia were left out. Social Democrats won 4.65% of the vote, while Communists took 3.60%. Both fell below the 5% electoral floor, and lost the fifteen seats they each owned.
Communists and government formation
It will be the first time since 1945 that a Czech parliament will not have the presence of the local communist party, whether its current incarnation, founded in 1990, or its original version, founded in 1921 and criminalized during the Nazi occupation. Interestingly, if Social Democrats and Communists had created an electoral alliance, they would have entered parliament, since, although the floor for alliances is 8%, the sum of votes would be sufficient. The Czech government will then emerge from a relatively similar and little fragmented parliament, with two larger parties and two smaller caucuses.
We have the second episode of “won but didn’t take” of these elections. THE YEAR 2011, of the current prime minister, needs or form a grand coalition, “fifty-fifty” with the Spolu, or the support of pirates and independents. These, in turn, have already announced that they are talking to the Spolu and that they will not sit down with Andrej Babiš, seen as a personalist, possibly corrupt and accused of putting the country’s institutions at their personal service. The new Czech government will likely be formed with the coalition between Spolu and pirates and independents, a majority of 108 seats.
The party with the most votes did not come in first, but the party that came in first will not form the government. Things that only parliamentarianism can provide. Everything, however, is “frozen”. Sadly, 77-year-old President Milos Zeman was hospitalized shortly after the election. He would be in intensive care and suffer from chronic liver problems. It is his task to name who will have the first chance to form a government. A protocol function, but still his. Until its recovery, the formation of a government will have to wait. Babiš will need to control anxiety.