Players to Watch in Czech Republic
Civic Democratic Party: The center-right ODS finished second to the CSSD at the May 2010 elections, but the Social Democrats had no basis for forming a majority coalition except in partnership with the ODS. The strong showing of the conservative TOP 09 made it possible for ODS leader Petr Nečas to pull together a center-right coalition that included both TOP 09 and the VV. The ODS has outlined a program that emphasizes fiscal responsibility and liberal reforms, but its ability to implement its agenda has been thrown into doubt by a split within the VV that has reduced the government’s majority to just two seats, leaving its vulnerable to collapse if the coalition partners cannot overcome their differences on the issues of fiscal consolidation, European integration, and battling corruption.
Czech Social Democratic Party: As the governing party during 1998–2006, the center-left CSSD did much of the heavy lifting required to gain the country’s membership in the EU, and the party’s leaders favor entry into the euro zone at the earliest possible date. However, the erosion of the party’s electoral base has encouraged the adoption of a more populist posture that will be difficult to abandon should the Social Democrats return to power, especially if that goal is achieved by striking an informal alliance with the KSCM.
Tradition Responsibility Prosperity 09: A new conservative party formed in mid-2009, TOP 09 built its 2010 election campaign around a pledge to impose the harsh fiscal austerity measures required to insulate the country from any contagion triggered by the debt crisis in Greece. It gained a chance to make good on that promise following a surprising third-place finish that secured the party a spot in the ODS-led government, in which its founding leader, Miroslav Kalousek, holds the Finance portfolio. In addition to advocating free-market economic policies, TOP 09 supports European integration, and the appointment of the party’s chairman, Karel Schwarzenberg, to the Foreign Affairs post provides it with a platform from which to push for that objective.
Public Affairs: The VV won 24 seats in its first foray into national politics, capitalizing on the electorate’s disgust with government corruption, the elimination of which is its stated top priority. The VV’s tenure in the government coalition was marked by chronic battles with its political partners and a damaging corruption scandal involving one of the party’s top figures. The VV withdrew from the government in early 2012, but a faction headed by Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has thrown its support behind Nečas, ensuring his government’s majority for the time being.
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