>Czech exit polls: crushing right-wing victory predicted

The usual SC&C exit poll has just appeared and, of course, I am – basically – wrong. It predicts

Civic Democrats 38% (91 seats)
Social Democrats 30% (65 seats)
Communists 12% (22 seats)
Christian Democrats 8% (13 seats)
Greens 7% (9 seats)

Turnout 65%

A sensationally good result for the Civic Democrats who seem likely to poll the highest level of support for any party since 1989 – with the obvious exception of Civic Forum in 1990 – and a personal triumph for Topolánek, even if I suspect their eventual support may be a bit lower (there is a 2% marginal of error). A good result for the Social Democrats – enough in to win many earlier elections– so we will be seeing more of Jiří Paroubek, I think….

Communist support is likely to be higher in reality – say to 15% – as voters don’t like admitting to supporting them in exit polls, but the Comunists seem to have lost out the more populist and aggressive style of the Social Democrats and from the relatively high turnout as 65% much higher than the 50-55% predicted by pollsters (and me). Confirms the old truth than contested elections drive up turnout. The good weather and the novelty of US-style head-to-head TV debates between Paroubek and Topolánek may also have helped polling experts say on Czech radio.

The Christian Democrats are happy, although despite continuing in government on the basis of their loyal core electorate in rural Catholic regions, their support is static – indeed stagnant – and they will be a weak junior partner in office, probably losing the Foreign Ministry to someone like arch-ODS eurosceptic Jan Zahradil, unless internal rivalries in ODS block him. The Greens, after all that has happened, can be relieved to be in parliament, but with a projected 9 MPs they will be a very force in opposition.

My mistake was essentially in underestimating the mobilizing effect of the campaign on uncommitted voters and also the extent to which they would incline to ODS… My sense of the three smaller parties was more accurate.

A bad result for minor (non-parliamentary) parties – only the List of Independent Candidates – European Democrats (SNK-ED), who are forecast to get 2% necessary to trigger the lowest level of state funding (100 crowns per vote). They miss out on the more generous allowance for parties getting 3-5%, however (6 million crowns bloc grant).

The interesting thing is how this translates into seats. A right-wing Civic Democrat-Christian Democrat coalition with a clear majority seems on the cards, but I think they may still need the Greens. In case ODS will dominate the coalition and some form of flat(ish) tax. Indeed, it seems Czech voters may be voting programmatically, attracted by the the party’s neo-liberal tax package and its promise of change (and cash).

Liberal Czechia defeats Social Czechia to turn around Aleks Szczerbiak’s take on last year’s Polish elections…


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