Czech Election 2021: Everything you need to know ahead of the general election this week

We take you through a crash course on the Czech political system, who’s in the running, and what it could mean for you.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff
Published on 04.10.2021 17:00 (updated on 04.10.2021)

Czech politics is complicated, and with elections approaching, it can be easy to feel lost amid all the talk of electoral coalitions, post-election government-forming, and endless predictions. So, here’s our guide of everything you should know ahead of the big vote on October 8-9.

The Czech political system: a crash course

The Czech parliament is unlikely to approve next year's budget before the elections / photo iStock @serebryannikov
The Czech parliament building in Prague / photo iStock @serebryannikov

The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy. Its parliament is divided into two separate chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) and the Senate (the higher house).

The executive body is the Government, which consists of the Prime Minister and other ministers appointed by the President of the Czech Republic. These ministers are usually, but not always, elected members of the Chamber of Deputies.

The Czech President is the formal head of state and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, with a formal role in the passing of legislation put forward by the government.

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The President is elected by the general public every five years, the Chamber of Deputies every four years, and the Senate every six years. Any Czech citizen over the age of 18 (born or naturalized) can vote in the elections.

How does Czech democracy work?

The chamber did not approve the govt's request for an extension (Photo: www.psp.cz)
Chamber of Deupties photo via psp.cz

The election for the Chamber of Deputies approaching in October is significant because this is the house from which the government is formed, and the house with the largest say in proposing and debating legislation.

The Chamber of Deputies is elected in a proportional representation voting system, which means each party is allocated a number of seats in the house (out of a total of 200) corresponding to their share of the overall vote. Parties must gain at least five percent of the overall vote to get any seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

After the votes have been calculated, and if no party has more than 50 percent of the vote, the President usually asks the leader of the party with the most votes to undertake negotiations with other parties to form a coalition government with a parliamentary majority. However, the President can also appoint a minority government if negotiations are not possible.

Who’s in the running in 2021, and what do they stand for?

ANO

Czech PM Andrej Babiš in Bled, Slovenia on September 1. Photo: vlada.cz
Czech PM Andrej Babiš in Bled, Slovenia on September 1. Photo: vlada.cz

The ANO party, led by current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, has a flexible political ideology leading many to accuse it of “populism”: adapting its political beliefs to the prevailing climate of public opinion. Compared to other political movements, the party is quite socially conservative: the current government has done little to advance issues such as same-sex marriage and adopts a hostile stance towards migration and multiculturalism.

Andrej Babiš is a controversial leader, due to alleged conflicts of interest arising from his continued influence over the huge Agrofert conglomerate. He is the fifth wealthiest person in the Czech Republic, and is the subject of an ongoing police investigation over the “Stork’s Nest” affair of alleged EU subsidy fraud.

At the time of writing, and less than a week before the Czech elections, Babiš has also been implicated in the Pandora Papers investigative project highlighting offshore financial dealings of world leaders. It has been revealed that Babiš passed CZK 400 million through a series of foreign companies when buying luxury French real estate in 2009, leading to accusations of money laundering and tax evasion.

Despite transferring Agrofert into trust funds before taking office as Prime Minister in 2017, an audit carried out by the European Commission recently decided Babiš “definitely” still has a conflict of interest due to his continued control over the company.

Babiš’s controversial status has strained ANO’s relationship with the EU, but ANO still supports the Czech Republic’s EU membership. The party tends to focus on lowering the cost of living and promoting individual economic wellbeing through tax cuts, household subsidies and pension reforms.

Czech Pirate Party + Mayors and Independents (STAN)

Ivan Bartoš / photo Wikimedia commons, pirati.cz, CC BY-SA 2.0
Ivan Bartoš / photo Wikimedia commons, pirati.cz, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Czech Pirate Party is part of an international network of Pirate parties sharing a similar ideology. The party is well-known for some of its more radical long-term ambitions, which include the legalization of cannabis and the wholesale reform of copyright laws allowing freer information sharing online. Yet the party’s election manifesto emphasizes a range of concerns relevant to the here and now.

The Pirates stand for a modernization of the Czech Republic, believing that greater application of modern technologies will lead to better quality of life. Despite the economic problems facing the Czech Republic following the pandemic, the Pirates hope to stimulate significant developments by encouraging investment into the country from private sources.

The Pirates/STAN coalition has launched its election campaign (photo via  www.piratiastarostove.cz)
The Pirates/STAN coalition has launched its election campaign (photo via www.piratiastarostove.cz)

The Pirates are socially liberal, and strongly anti-corruption: they have already said that they will never go into coalition with Andrej Babiš due to his alleged conflicts of interests. Opponents describe them as anti-traditional, a political image embodied in party leader Ivan Bartoš, whose dreadlocks represent, for many, a rejection of conventional politics. On the other hand, the Pirates are in favor of closer Czech integration with western institutions such as the EU and NATO.

The Pirate Party is supported in the election by STAN, a group of Mayors and Independents, led by Vít Rakušan.

SPOLU Coalition (TOP 09, ODS, KDU-ČSL)

ODS leader Petr Fiala / photo ODS
ODS leader Petr Fiala / photo ODS

The SPOLU (Together) coalition consists of three distinct groups: TOP 09, the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). The parties represent quite a wide spectrum of political ideas, but they are united in their antipathy towards the present government led by Andrej Babiš.

The party is being led in the elections by ODS leader Petr Fiala, who has done his best to update the image of ODS and in so doing bring it back into the political mainstream. TOP 09 leader Markéta Pekarová Adamová is the Czech Republic’s most prominent female politician and is another key figure in this year’s elections.

While SPOLU’s diversity of political ideologies makes it relatively hard to predict how it would govern, were it to be elected, the party benefits from a broad appeal among various types of voters who dislike Babiš and his ANO government.

Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD)

Tomio Okamura addressing a rally at Wenceslas Square in 2015. (Photo: Wikimedia commons, Aktron, CC BY 4.0)
Tomio Okamura addressing a rally at Wenceslas Square in 2015. (Photo: Wikimedia commons, Aktron, CC BY 4.0)

SPD is an anti-immigrant, anti-EU and isolationist political party led by Tomio Okamura. The party is one of the most controversial political forces in the Czech Republic, but polls show that it enjoys steadily increasing support. The party recently announced that it would make the possibility of an EU referendum a condition of its entering into a government coalition. It also said that in order to pair with ANO after the election, it would require Andrej Babiš to step down from the position of Prime Minister.

Other parties

Parties hovering around the five percent threshold for entering the Chamber of Deputies, according to most polls, are the Social Democrats (ČSSD), whose popularity has declined dramatically since entering government with ANO in 2017, and the Communist Party (KSČM).

What do the polls say?

Polls currently show ANO firmly in the lead, with a projected 26 percent vote share on average. Although the party’s standing dropped significantly during the darkest days of the pandemic in the spring, a successful vaccine roll-out, a re-opened society, and effective campaigning rhetoric against the opposition seem to have helped turned the tables in Babiš’s favor.

The SPOLU and Pirates+STAN coalitions follow with around 20 percent of the vote each. Many voters seem to have got cold feet about the Pirates of late, following a polling high of as much as 28 percent in the spring. SPOLU’s support, on the other hand, has remained quite constant since the grouping was announced.

SPD has a project vote share of around 11 percent, the Communists and Social Democrats are projected to get around 5 percent, while others, including the Czech Green Party and Trikolora+Freedom Party coalition, are expected to miss out on the five percent threshold for entering the Chamber of Deputies.

What could the election result mean for expats?

When it comes to immigration, divisions between the parties are not clear-cut. Some generalizations can, however, be made about the parties' stances towards globalization and non-Czech residents.

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The ANO, SPD and Communist parties adopt a traditionalist, anti-globalist stance. The SPD's desire to leave the EU is the clearest manifestation of this ideology, while Prime Minister Andrej Babiš famously declared earlier this year that "We do not want to share our country."

On the other hand, the Pirates and the SPOLU coalition argue for closer integration into western institutions such as the EU and NATO, and adopt a stance which is generally more welcoming of multiculturalism in the Czech Republic.

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