General parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic will be held 2-3 June. Despite the fact that the Czech Republic (and its pedecessor, Czecho-Slovakia) is a country I have visited more frequently than almost any other, I don’t know a great deal about its politics. You see, I generally visit for other reasons.
So, check out the BBC’s Q&A on the elections. The BBC notes that the current government is comprised of a coalition of the Social Democrats (70 seats), the Christian Democrats (21), and the Freedom Union (10), which hold the absolute barest of majority in the 200-seat parliament.
The campaign at one time was being led by the main opposition Civic Democrats (58 seats), but the Social Democrats have been gaining on them. The result between the top two parties is expected to be close, and the Green Party–recently endorsed by ex-president Vaclav Havel–is expected to get 10% and thus could be pivotal in coalition bargaining.
Speaking of the threshold, it is indeed high, yet there are many smaller parties winning votes, resulting in one of Central or West Europe’s more disproportional proportional systems. The Social Democrats in the 2002 election won their 35% of the seats on just 30.2% of the votes. The runner-up Civic Democrats won their 29% on 24.5% of the votes, and 12.5% of the votes were cast for various parties that failed to win any seats. In none of the Czech districts did a party win a seat with less than 7.8%, and in many the smallest party to earn a seat had 12% or so–despite rather high district magnitudes (averaging 14.3 and ranging from 5 to 25). It thus appears (though I do not know for certain) that the threshold (5%, but higher for joint lists of two or more parties) is applied at the district level. Yet, it is also clear from the results that overall allocation is determined nationally, despite there not being a nationwide compensation district. In other words, all seats are assigned to districts, but a smaller party’s seats in a district may be won on the strength of votes cast in other districts in addition to the district where the seat is won. (Yes, it is complex, though not terribly unusual.)
Of the unrepresented “other” parties in 2002, the Greens amounted to less than three percent. If no other “other” besides the Greens were to cross the threshold, and the Greens won 10% of the vote, they should have around eleven seats.
Last year at this time, I was planning our summer trip to the Czech Republic and beyond.* Alas, not this year, so I will have to be content to brush up on Czech politics from afar and settle for the locally available versions of some of my favorite things Czech. Alas, some of the best require that one travel.
(Wouldn’t you know: A post on Czech elections turns into a post on other things Czech.)
* Some day I will get around to creating a Czech page at the Ladera Frutal travel pages, including some from underground. Stay tuned.