Following general elections Saturday, the Czech Republic should have “the strongest government in years” (Deutsche Welle). It will be a government of the center-right, notwithstanding a NY Times headline that might lead one to believe otherwise: “Left Wins Czech Vote, but Right Makes Gains.”
To be clear, the Social Democrats did win the highest vote total, but it was just 22.1%. The combined parties of the right won a majority of seats, with the largest among them being the Civic Democrats, with 20%. Two new parties of the right, TOP 09, with 16.7%, and Public Affairs, with 10.9%, will form the next government in coalition with the Civic Democrats.
So we have here a case in which the largest party in a parliamentary democracy will not form a government, because it lacks allies. There was a clear shift to the right in the electorate’s preferences–the three parties of the right will have 118 of the 200 parliamentary seats, aided by the 5% threshold–despite a center-left party being the single largest.
On the intra-party dimension of the country’s “flexible list” system, Roman Chytilek, a specialist on Czech parties, informs me that this time 48 legislators were elected purely on preference votes (i.e. their party-given rank would have been too low for them to win without preference votes). Only 86 incumbents were reelected (down from 115 in 2006). In addition, 44 women were elected (up from 31 in 2006); fourteen of them due to preference votes.
In this election, voters were allowed to cast four preference votes, up from two in 2006.
The Greens and Christian Democrats, both of which were allies of the Civic Democrats at the last election, failed to cross the 5% threshold.