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2017 Czech legislative elections: the victory or the failure of democracy?

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This year, the legislative elections in Czech Republic (October 20th and 21st, 2017) took place in a particularly complex atmosphere. Indeed, the vote was marked by the clear victory of the liberal and populist party ANO (“Yes” in Czech), led by the former minister Andrej Babiš, which resulted in the collapse of the Czech social democratic party in power. Because this political situation is unprecedented, uncertainty prevails among Czech people. The question here, as well as among the Czech population, is whether or not this political disruption is a step forward or a step back for the country. The writers, Jan Kasnik and Alexandra Simaiova, are Czech students in the Dijon campus of SciencesPo Paris.
Source: Andrej Babis

Czech legislative elections: a new dynamic

Alexandra Simaiova | translated by: Marion Charpentier | 2018. January 02. 14:50

Each time, elections are a step forward. They are a part of society’s evolution. Society has never known a decline, and even less with the establishment of democracy, and thus of the direct universal suffrage. The population always acts in accordance with its interests and its belief. Then, one question is to be asked: how much Czech Republic has been able to benefit from the last elections?

When the elections results are constant, society does not expect the revolutionary and innovative ideas of the winners anymore. This year, the step looks big, to the point that we do not see where it will lead. Indeed, the last results can be explained by the success of new movements with ambitious programs and all the more motivated to implement them as their survival depends on their voters’ support. But, regarding ANO’s success, it is the fear of the unknown, quite natural, which can blind people: it must not cover up the evolution hiding behind.

*One step towards the country prosperity

The political movement ANO, led by Slovak-originated businessman Andrej Babiš, just won the elections with a spectacular result: almost 30% of the votes. Babiš is the second richest person in Czech Republic. He has a lot of knowledge in finance and he used it and his skills as a finance minister between 2014 and 2017. During his whole term, the Czech Republic experienced an important economic prosperity. When the government presented the record for 2016, Andrej Babiš highlighted many positive facts, as for example a budgetary surplus of more than 61 billion Czech crowns, which is the best result in Czech Republic’s history, and permitted the reduction of each inhabitant’s debt of 6000 Czech crowns (230 euros). He also established a new system of electronic registration of sales (EET) in order to avoid fraud at the time of tax collection, allowing the government to recover what belongs to the State and then to use it in investments and innovations particularly in the industrial and technological fields. Finally, unemployment is declining for four years. In September, the unemployment rate was only 2,7%. Numbers don’t lie. Babiš proved his ability to lead the State to economic wealth. And it is well known that economic prosperity is often a major element to ensure prosperity in other fields, whether it be social or political. As a Prime Minister, he will only enlarge his skills, which will ease the pursuit of his political program, which he has already carried out, and which targets the good of the people.

*The innovative elements

The candidates to this year’s elections brought several innovations on the Czech political scene. First, the growing number of movements and parties attests to the steady political renewal in the country. Four of the nine parties having seats in the Parliament have been created in the last decade. They bring diverse and dynamic ideologies. For instance, the biggest surprise was probably the Pirate Party, which had almost 11% of the votes and whose program was based on the digitalization of institution’s actions, the transparency of politician’s actions and the importance of individual freedoms. It is an original and very innovative program and for the first time, one key point is based on technical development. With a growing number of movements on the political scene, the programs are more diversified, cover ever more subjects and thus attract and satisfy more voters. But it also shows the evolution of the political scene and its ability to keep up with the pace of society’s evolution.

Moreover, increasingly young people appear on the political scene. This year, the youngest member of parliament in the country’s history has been elected to the Lower House: Dominik Feri, law student, aged 21 and member of the liberal party TOP09, collected 6% of his party’s votes by himself. He is particularly active on social networks, takes part to debates with young people and has also planned, after his election, to create an online program for political education for young people. Many young voters confessed that, without his political action, they would not have voted or followed the political news. Thanks to this type of person, the political world becomes more and more popular, especially among young people, which is really new.

I think this year’s elections, which presented to the public eyes new and innovative parties, young people like Dominik Feri, are a real force allowing a new start for the Czech Republic and I think these elections are going to propel youth into the political world.

*Party pluralism – the reinforcement of democracy

Nine political parties have succeeded in crossing the line of the 5% needed to be able to have seats in Parliament. It is the highest number in the country’s history. It means that the political spectrum has been enriched by several programs creating a ideological diversity. These nine programs present very different visions of the State – the State as a company, as a liberal democracy, as a place protected from migrants and foreign cultures, etc. These diverse points of view can harden the negotiations and slow down the parties’ attempts at finding agreements, but I am convinced that, at the same time, this party pluralism reinforces democracy by multiplying debates and the need for compromises. The more parties there are in the House of Representatives, the bigger the part of the population that can recognise itself in it, and thus see its interests in the heart of the debates. Politics will become more “human”, will be closer to the individuals again and not to an abstract demographic mass.

 

The Czech legislative elections or a big step backwards

Jan Kasnik | translated by: Marion Charpentier | 2018. January 02. 14:50

The outcome of the Czech legislative elections has created strong reactions, in the Czech Republic as well as on the international scene. One week before the centennial of Czechoslovakia’s creation, the Czech political scene is upside down.

With the historical breakthrough of the populists, and especially of the movement ANO of the billionaire Andrej Babiš and of the SPD (the Party for Direct Democracy, a far-right party), some are shocked, others are delighted. Is the disruption of the Czech political scene a step forward? No, it is rather the embodiment of the worst of nightmares…

*A step towards populism

First, it is unfortunate that, a hundred years after the creation of Czechoslovakia and the triumph of democracy, Czech people are more than ever suspicious regarding their political representatives. The elections showcased that with the strong decline of traditional parties (in particular, socio-democrats, who only have 15 seats out of 200), and the spectacular rise of populist movements, among which ANO and SPD. Czech people, who are historically sceptical towards the political scene, have discredited it even more, in the international opinion, by voting in great numbers for Babiš, a former agent of the communist secret police, currently prosecuted for corruption. His movement’s motto, “run the State like a company”, has proved efficient. Therefore, many voters seem to be willing to be led in pathetic conditions, in the same way that Eastern Europe workers are exploited by Babiš in his farm businesses.

*A step towards intolerance

Then, it is to be noted that Czech society becomes more radical and withdraws into itself – a fact also reflected in the legislative outcome. Thus, the second movement, the Party for Direct Democracy, supported by Marine Le Pen, wants to end the Islamization of the Czech Republic and immigration. As for ANO, the party wants to put an end to Brussels’ bureaucracy. Czech people, members of this small nation rather unknown even by its European neighbours, seem to want to find back a lost national glory. But actually, the legislative elections have rather contributed to the fact that Czech Republic now stands with the worst populists, flouting democratic values, that is to say Poland and Hungary.

*A step towards the death of democracy

Some could object that intolerance regard Islam and refugees is not shared by the whole population and that my judgment is excessive. But if the rest of the population disagrees, why does it remain silent? Why aren’t there citizen’s initiatives to fight on behalf of democracy and tolerance, as in Poland for example? Because democracy is dying in the Czech Republic, and the legislative elections are just confirming this trend. Hatred and intolerance are prevailing over civil society, regretfully absent, not to say dead. If a resistance against intolerant populists (regarding the refugees as well as LGBT people) still exists, this resistance is conspicuously absent.

What else can I say before I conclude? Czech society has taken a huge step back during those legislative elections, by choosing populist and intolerant representatives, thus contributing to the very destruction of the notion of Central Europe, now regarded as an equivalent of Eastern Europe by the West and hidden behind an iron curtain that seems to reappear. But it is not too late to take a real step forward. Maybe during the presidential elections in January?

 

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes

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57%

Czech legislative elections: a new dynamic

Alexandra Simaiova|translated by: Marion Charpentier

The Czech legislative elections or a big step backwards

Jan Kasnik| translated by: Marion Charpentier

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