>Czech Republic: Social Democrats sweep the board in regional elections

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And, as vaguely sensed in yesterday’s post, the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) have scored impressive victories over the centre-right in regional polls in – get this – all 13 Czech regions voting yesterday (the 14th, Prague, is technically a municipality so votes at a different time). The centre-right Civic Democrats did not entirely go into electoral meltdown. The turnout was lower than in national elections, suggesting some of their potential supporters may have stayed at home, while the left-wing electorate may have been more highly motivated and highly mobilized, and the Civic Democrats did pull at least 20% of the vote in most regions and running the ČSSD close in some places, but their defeat in all regions is highly unexpected. other minor parties performed pretty much as they always do, although the Greens did poorly and don’t seem to have made it onto any regional authorities at all, which may bode ill for them. As ever, a few independent and local lists gained a few seats, including a new Doctors’ list campaign on health services issues.
The Social Democrats also did well in the 27 Senate seats being contested, but all but one go to a run-off ballot in a week. In most cases, the Civic Democrats also made it in to the run-off. Among the more striking Senate results: the Social Democrats topping the poll in the Brno-City district when they didn’t even make it into the run-off in 2002- the Czech Republic’s second city is usually a bastion of the right (independent right-wing Senator Jiří Zlatuška loses his seat); and the Communists topping the poll with 41% and winning by a very wide margin in the depressed border town of Znojmo, the ace up their sleeve being their candidate, the popular and competent ex-deputy mayor Marta Bayerová.

Political reaction? Many commentators are again marking the card of Civic Democrat PM Mirek Topolánek. ‘Topolánek’s Waterloo’ says right-wing daily Lidové noviny. ‘ODS is one small step from Armageddon’ says ODS mayor of Prague and Topolánek rival, Pavel Bém. How helpful. In truth, while the right may be up against in and faction fighting in ODS may increase, the more interesting question is who will be running 13 of the Czech Republic’s quite powerful regional authorities and how. The Social Democrats seem set to go from zeros to heroes, by gaining a brace of regional governorships. However, in most cases, the arithmetic suggests they will need the support of the Communists to push it through. So the 64,000 Czech crown questions are – does the right want to push ČSSD into alignment with the Communists or concede more gracefully? And, if Communist support is needed, how politically acceptable is that for the Social Democrats?

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