The Czech political right unites to defeat Andrej Babiš. Has the heartbeat of anyone reading this now out of joy, anger, or at least out of curiosity? During the culminating pandemic, perhaps not – and also the news media ranked this report rather backwards, somewhere behind the text on the change of the Prague public transport timetable. The media interest didn’t seem to count much on the media interest, because it announced the whole thing on the eve of the day when the paper newspapers were not published. And if we look at the performances of some exponents of the right active on Facebook: On the same day, Alexandr Vondra attracted the colors of autumn to the Bohemian Central Mountains, and Jan Zahradil gave one of his key critics, Mikuláš Minář. Luděk Niedermayer reported on the union of the right on his account.
Nevertheless, we dare to guess that this is a political event that will affect life in the Czech Republic more than how many trams will run, and which may be more beneficial for many voters than the brightest colors of autumn. Soberly, it can be a turning point. Since the 2018 parliamentary elections, Czech politics has practically not moved. Agencies monitoring public policy preferences did work, but it was quite indifferent what readings their readers had come across in the last three years.
The development of the popularity of the parties almost did not change, Babiš’s YES still led sovereignly, far behind him the Pirates and the ODS competed for the second place and the rest of the opposition withered somewhere around the five percent border. On the right, traditional faction prevailed, with mutual sympathies, pains of the past and often even minor differences of opinion being more authoritative than long-term political interest.
On Tuesday at Prague Castle under the statue of Masaryk, however, something happened. Formally, it looks like the ODS, KDU-ČSL and TOP 09 have signed an agreement on a joint procedure in the next parliamentary elections. In addition, a similar agreement is being prepared between Pirates and STAN – and if it is completed, two electoral blocs that will not be too remote in the Czech Republic will emerge, which have a real chance to defeat and rule “invincible” Babiš.
Take the space off the radicals
The advantages of a common approach are obvious. Voters receive an advance notice of the alliance in which the parties will want to rule. In addition, in the words of Petr Pithart, they are given the opportunity to elect the winner and the next prime minister, which he can encourage to support. And as we know, post-election mathematics also records agreements on joint action, where the division of seats favors strong players. So suddenly there is a real chance that the opposition will not spend another four years watching the owner of Agrofert model the state as he needs from the point of view of his company.
If the right of the right is to defeat Babiš, a joint electoral coalition is a necessary step. Moreover, the agreement does not mean that the parties must form one bloc together in the next parliament. There, after the elections, you can split up and continue your own party politics. But if the right finds a longer-term common interest, it would be logical to continue. In any case, there is plenty of time for these considerations so far.
To the color of the next elections must be added the fact that even an absolute majority of seats in the next parliament does not guarantee the formation of a government. If Babiš takes first place on the tape, Zeman seems to entrust his formation to the government, not the arithmetic majority – and the president’s fight with parliament begins. But even that remains to be seen.
Before that, the right must show that it is serious about forming a united coalition. It can be expected that there will be stronger voices pointing out more about program differences than agreement. But rationally they are not bigger than what we see in a more detailed look among the members of the parties concerned. Even within the ODS, the People’s Party and TOP 09, there are people with different views on the EU, gay marriage, cooperation with Babiš and other topics. Agreements on a common approach tend to have a cultivating effect, taking space for radicals in favor of moderate votes.
Moreover, the agreement of the right comes at an opportune moment: the Czech left is really disappearing from the scene under the force of Babiš’s dominance, and paradoxically Babiš himself is going into a hitherto unknown decline due to the failure of coronavirus. He buys mistakes, does not manage the crisis, and his movement does not fulfill its basic political meaning – it does not generate people that the president could appoint to government positions and run the state with.
Euro, green deal, asylum policy
It is clear that in time there must be talk of critical passages in party programs. It is probably not possible to fine-tune all the differences immediately – therefore, where it is possible due to the functioning of the state, the right will have to push the contradictions aside. This is probably most related to the relationship with the European Union, more precisely to the opinion on the dominant current of European politics, where one can see disputes over the adoption of the euro, the tuning of tax or foreign policy and the view of the green deal.
The line between supporters and rejectors of the euro does not run exactly between ODS and TOP 09 with KDU-ČSL. Even within the Civic Democrats, there are influential people who side with the adoption of the euro, such as Pavel Drobil, ex-minister and chairman of the regional association of the Moravian-Silesian Region. However, if anti-Brussels hardliners such as Jan Zahradil can dampen the dispute with Drobil in the interest of the party, they should be able to do so in the interest of the newly formed coalition with Luďek Niedermayer or the People’s Party Pavel Svoboda. The opposite is also true. Unfortunately, the adoption of the euro is not on the agenda now, and TOP 09 can hide it as a topic for later, when a silent coalition for the introduction of a common European currency in the Czech Republic is formed in the next parliament.
Another controversial issue, the Czech support for the green deal, is being resolved within the European Council in Brussels and will be decided by the next elections. Moreover, the ODS program does not say that the party is against the green deal as such, only against “setting goals and commitments that are impossible in practice”. Is today’s green agreement such a commitment? ODS politicians (for example, Jan Skopeček) like to say that they do, but they do not present hard arguments for this.
Nor can they, because “feasibility” will depend on the whole complex of government policy coupled with the determination to do something to save the climate. ODS delegates will also have to fight less against “green fanaticism” as their new political partners now fit into their broad box.
Some TOP 09 and KDU politicians also support a unified EU asylum policy, while the ODS is strongly opposed. This may be a problem, but if the passage of the programs on the “plan to stay part of the EU” applies, then asylum policy needs to be addressed only in cooperation with the Union, there will probably be no other way for pro-European political parties.