Results from last week’s parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic show that the social democrats (CSSD) won with 30.4%, followed by the communist party (KSCM) (18.8%), which is the highest vote for the KSCM since the collapse of Stalinism in 1989.
Also, significantly, only 58% of those eligible to vote bothered to participate in the polls. The low turnout reflected big distrust towards all the main parties.
Rightwing parties suffered big defeats. The main capitalist party, the ODS, founded by the economist and main market economy ‘reformer’ of the last few years, Klaus, received 25%. The coalition (‘Koalice’) of Christian democrats (KDU-CSL) and liberals (US-DEU) won 14.3%.
The KSCM was the only party able to convince some people to vote for them for the first time. They gained around 70,000 new votes, compared to a loss of around 300,000 votes for the other parties.
The national parliament, which has 200 members in total, is now made up of 70 social democrats, 41 ODS, 31 KSCM, 21 KDU-CSL, 8 US-DEU and 2 independents (from Koalice).
A new ‘Left’ government?
Many commentators are saying this represents a clear victory for the ‘Left’ and that the Left could now form the new government. There are many obstacles however to the inclusion of both the KSCM and CSSD in a new administration. For a start, the main parties still formerly hold to a general policy of not sharing power with ‘communists’.
However, even if they were to dominate the next government, the KSCM and CSSD are far from about to introduce radical socialist policies. For example, the communist KSCM leadership is unclear in its attitude towards whether or not the Czech Republic should join the bosses’ club, the EU. The social democratic CSSD would like to share power with the right wing capitalist Koalice bloc, and hopes to win support from other parties in a ‘case by case’ situation. This would mean implementing anti-working class policies. In fact, the outgoing CSSD led minority government introduced policies attacking the living standards of workers.
For working class people the issue of whether ‘communists’ are in power or not is not such a big deal. Indeed, some working people voted for the KSCM as a protest against years of neo-liberal policies. Many young people however view the KSCM as a somewhat exotic party of elderly people.
On the same weekend as the elections, members of Socialisticka Alternativa Budoucnost (Czech section of the CWI) held their national congress. The meeting decided to start an "after-election" campaign to promote the need for workers and youth to organise a political alternative to the capitalist parties. This includes campaigning against the danger of populism and nationalism growing over the next years. In the context of Czech EU membership failing to fulfil the hopes of workers and youth, right wing demagogues can play the populist nationalist card, encouraging racist divisions amongst working people.