Prague - The polls in the Czech Republic will open at 2 PM Friday 28 May, so Czech political parties have less then a week to persuade the public they are the right choice for them. And there is still a lot to gain. Or lose.
Opinion polls show that in the 2006 elections, more than 10 percent of voters - 561 thousand - decided who to vote for on the very election day! Other 15 percent (823 thousand) responded they had decided during the last two weeks before the elections.
Night of the living undecided
If we assume that the situation is more or less similar this time, this means there are more than 1 million of unsure or undecided voters. Of course, the parties know this, so the last week before elections is likely to be marked by a heated campaign.
There are five parties whose representatives will almost certainly win parliamentary seats, while two other parties have some chance to surpass the five percent electoral threshold. These are the competitors that will try to get the biggest possible slice of the „undecided" cake.
Aktuálně.cz has prepared an analysis on what their chances are.
Social Democracy (ČSSD) 32%, 30%, 30.5%*)
*) Popularity in March, April and May respectively, according to the opinion polls conducted by CVVM.
The Social Democracy have a lot of sympathetic supporters, but only few hardcore followers that would vote for them no matter what (on the contrary, parties such as the ODS or Communists have very disciplined voters).
This means that the biggest challenge for the ČSSD is to persuade people to attend the elections. The higher the voter turnout, the better.
The ČSSD's campaign is focused above all on warning against the threat (or "threat") of a right-wing government introducing harsh austerity measures. Criticism of the medical fees introduced by the previous center-right government is one of the keystones of the party's election campaign.
The party might benefit from a bandwagon effect - the undecided are likely to vote for the wining party, and the Social Democrats are ahead of its opponents in opinion polls.
On the other hand, the Social Democratic dominance in the polls is so decisive that some of its supporters might in fact think that it is pointless to vote because the party „has already won".
Civic Democrats (ODS) 25.5%, 22.5%, 19%
As usual, in the last days before the election, the media attention is focused totally on the titanic fight between the Social Democracy and its arch-nemesis, the right-wing ODS, while the other parties will be rather neglected. Both rival will benefit from their 15 minutes (or is it 15 days?) of fame.
Televised debates between the leaders of the two parties, Petr Nečas (ODS) and Jiří Paroubek (ČSSD), are likely to give some advantage to the ODS, because Nečas tend to be a well-prepared and pragmatic (although not very charismatic) speaker.
Also, the ODS is popular among the young people who even organize some support actions, using Facebook as their platform. Simply put, the virtual world and the young people are two spheres dominated by the right-wing parties, ODS and TOP 09.
While the ČSSD uses the scarecrow of medical fees and tax-cuts, the ODS warns against debts and state default.
Also, the ODS uses the same tactic it has been using at least for the last ten years: it stresses that voting for smaller right-wing parties is pointless. Obviously, for the ODS, the size does matter.
TOP 09 - 10%, 11.5%, 14%
Unlike the ODS, ČSSD and Public Affairs, the TOP 09's campaign is mostly free of negativism and scaremongering.
However, the party is likely to lose some of its electoral support to the ODS, because voting for a new, relatively unknown party is a risk not everybody is really willing to take.
Aktuálně.cz estimates that the TOP 09 will end fourth in the elections - after the ČSSD, ODS and KSČM.
Communists (KSČM) 12%, 13%, 13%
No surprises expected here. Virtually all the opinion polls put the party's support at 12-14 %, so it is very likely to end with this share of the votes.
Public Affairs 7%, 9%, 11.5%
In the 2006 electoral campaign, the Green Party based their political image on the promise of „change". It was estimated in 2006 that they would get as much as 10 percent of votes, however at the end they received only 6 percent.
Now, in 2010, the Public Affairs party is using the same „change" rhetoric... And is likely to meet the same disappointing fate.
On the other hand, it is very unlikely that the party would not surpass the election threshold. The label of „populists" given to them by Czech media does not appear to be causing any harm to their popularity. However, what can cause harm to them are meetings with the same „political dinosaurs" the party promises to eradicate.
Green Party 4.5%, 4%, 4.5%
The Greens rely on their image of "the incorruptibles" (no worries, the similarity with Robespierre ends here) and support of some public figures, including former Czechoslovak and Czech president Václav Havel. They are not likely to add any new element into their campaign, and they will have some very hard times trying to get over the 5 percent threshold.
Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) 4.5%, 4%, 3.5%
The Christian Democratic campaign is weak at best, their leaders invisible to media. There is a real possibility that for the first time since 1920, there will be no Christian Democrats in the Czech lower chamber.
However, the Christian Democrats can always rely on their not very numerous but extremely disciplined electorate located above all in the south Moravia. After all, a few years ago, their campaign slogan was „calm power".