>Czech Republic: Elections to be held as scheduled shock
I’m sitting in my parents-in-laws sixth floor flat in Brno with a glass of my father-in-law’s red wine at one elbow and Czech-English dictionary at the other. Having spent all summer finishing various conference papers at short notice, I’ve been a conference on 20 Years of Czech Democracy at Masaryk University in Brno. We have an interesting first panel discussion of pinpointing the reasons for stability and longevity of the Czech party system; learn how the Czech Social Democrats have terrific and well focused political marketing and how Czech voting is stably class-based and generating right-wing suburbs on the periphery of Prague and Brno, while those left in the city centres toy with various centrist and populist parties. I disagree with the keynote address which frames Czech democracy in terms of democratic consolidation, admittedly broadly conceived. I think we should starting thinking about democratic quality and how well democracy works, not bracketing the CR with Serbia
While all this is going on the Czech parliament is passing an amendment to the Constitution allow it dissolve itself – the Constitutional Court (“the last guarantee of democracy” as one of my fellow panelists – possibly ironically – put it) which is practically next door to the Faculty of Social Studies where we are conferencing had struck down the previous one-off constitutional law shorterning the parliamentary term, so they have to pass a sensible general amendent along the lines they should have published years ago. Early elections postponed from October to November. Or so we thought.
Today brings the news that the Social Democrats don’t want early elections at all, despite what they spent the last nine months saying. So terrified are they of the possibility of another successful challenge in the Constitutional Court to the latest amendment that they helped pass that they would rather the current caretaker government of technocrats formed in May continued for another nine months when scheduled elections can take place. Oh, and the technocrats will also get to make swingeing cuts to balance the budger including 3% salary cuts for public sector employees. The fine Social Democrat marketing campaign to be promisng decent living standards for ordinaty people wound up. Parliament isn’t to be dissolved. The inter-party pact between the main parties of left and right that brought the caretaker government into exisitence is null and void. Topolnek resigns as a deputy in protest, pointlessly and rather riskily I thought. The technocrats in the ‘non-political’ government – whose leverage is increasing by the minute – want a new one to give them a democratic mandate (of sorts) but will only agree go on if they are allowed to rein in the budget deficit and cut public spending.
‘Politologové jsou zaskočeni’ the TV news says. Damn right we are. We should have been discussing issues of consensus, competition and the problem of building stable majorities yesterday, not waxing lyrical about the institutionalization of parties, although I suppose their stability as individual organizations add to the instability (or perhaps I should call that finely balanced nature) of the Czech party system . The current turn of events poses some pretty sharp questions about the Czech model of democracy and readiness with which politicians can chop and change the rules of the game when they put their minds to it and, having created in political system in which parties rule the roost, flee from government in times of economic crisis and hand over to a team of technocrats for a year does have a whiff of South America or Serbia about it.
I am going to another conference on the 1989 next. Unwise in many ways, as I am not a historian, but perhaps safer in some as the dull certainties of Czech political crisi management seem to be collapsing around us. The next 20 hours of Czech democracy are a lot harder to understand than last last 20 years