Prague - Less than two weeks ago, the legislative elections in Great Britain produced a result that promised everything but political stability and strong government. Now it appears that the Czech Republic may follow the same volatile path after the general elections to be held on 28 and 29 May.
While Britons have not had a hung parliament since 1974, Czechs may see a repetition of the stalemate situation that happened four years ago, when the 200-seat lower chamber of the Czech parliament was split between two ideologically rival blocs of parties, each controlling 100 seats.
It took more than six months of chaotic political dealings before a government was finally sworn in in January 2007.
Now, the latest opinion poll conducted by Factum Invenio agency says that something similar may happen again. The poll says that the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), which has been in opposition since 2006, is very likely to win the elections. Previous opinion polls generally indicated the same result. However, the latest poll suggests that in spite of the Social Democratic victory, the lower chamber would be dominated by right-wing or center-right parties.
The poll was conducted at the end of April, with 1,014 people inquired.
According to the poll, the Social Democrats would win the elections and take 66 seats.
Their chief rival, the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), would win 51 seats. The ODS constituted a key member of the Czech governing coalition in 2007-2009 before it lost a no-confidence vote and a caretaker government was introduced.
The Communist Party would take 30 seats. However, the strongly left-wing party is not acceptable as a coalition partner neither for the ODS nor for the Social Democrats.
According to the poll, the lower chamber would see some new faces, namely the center-right Public Affairs (Věci veřejné in Czech) which would take 23 seats, and the conservative TOP 09 with 22 seats.
The TOP 09 is not really a "new" party, because it is led by popular nobleman and former Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg with his „second-in-command" being Miroslav Kalousek, a former Economic Minister and ex-leader of the Christian Democrats.
On the other hand, the Public Affairs are really to be seen as the Great Unknown of the upcoming elections. Its leader, Radek John, is a former star of the popular commercial TV Nova, and the party bases its electoral campaign on criticism of political establishment and a promise of „fresh air". However, its latest step, an introduction of so-called „social interventions patrols" aimed at the problem of drug-users and homeless people, was not accepted with much enthusiasm.
104 vs 96...
The last party to surpass the 5 percent election threshold, according to the poll, would be the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) with 8 mandates.
This means that the right-leaning parties (ODS, Public Affairs, TOP 09, and Christian Democrats) would control 104 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with Social Democrats and Communists having the remaining 96 seats.
And, given the margin of error, the elections may very well end in the same stalemate situation as four years ago.
...or 101 vs 99?
According to Aktuálně.cz's own analysis, the Social Democrats and Communists would end up controlling 99 seats, while the rest of the parties will have 101 seats.
The different results of Factum Invenio's and Aktuálně.cz's computations show that even as little as a few hundreds of votes can determine who gets a seat in the parliament.
Aktuálně.cz asked two main PM candidates to comment on these data.
Head of Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said he remains calm. „These days there is no point in overestimating the results (of opinion polls). In the past, Social Democrats have always got stronger in the last days, last week before the elections," Paroubek said to Aktuálně.cz. „I believe that this time it will be the same."
Civic Democrats' leader Petr Nečas appears equally unemotional. „Public support is crucial at the time of the elections. Not at the time of opinion polls. And I always rely rather on the electoral results," Nečas told to Aktuálně.cz. „But at least it is a motivating factor. Evidently, it is possible to stop the Czech left and create a center-right reform-oriented government of fiscal responsibility."