A Letter From…Czech Republic! 

 

After the results were published, several Czech political parties have proclaimed that they were happy with the results. Whether there was a reason for merriment is a fairly difficult question to answer.

 

In my opinion there was no clear winner. ANO, the party of prime minster Babiš did win most votes, but the 21 % ANO received is rather underwhelming (ANO polls around 30 % nowadays). As a member of ALDE, ANO possibly faces a domestic image problem if Macron’s party LREM takes a leading role in the European party family. Many voters of ANO do not endorse Macron’s agenda for deeper EU integration.

 

The second most voted for party, ODS is probably the most successful party, having once again managed to score more votes than the Pirate party. The party has doubled its representation, but since it belongs to ECR, it will struggle to be heard in the parliament.

 

The Pirate party has had a somewhat underwhelming performance (it got 13,5 % and was aiming for 20 %), but even this result is a net improvement on the result from 2014. Pirates now have to choose which parliamentary group to join. There are only two real options and both of them are problematic. ALDE would probably be the closest fit, but ANO is already a part of that group and the Pirates have been fighting hard against Babiš, so this would be quite awkward for them. The other option, G/EFA is also problematic, as the Pirates have been positioning themselves as a center, sometimes even center-right party.

 

The last party that can plausibly claim success is Tomio Okamura’s anti-EU SPD, which has managed to mobilize its voters and enter the parliament for the first time. It seems that SPD’s campaign, which included bringing both Mateo Salvini and Marie Le Pen to Prague was successful in convincing enough of their supporters to bother to vote.

 

Three other groups have managed to gain seats (STAN + TOP09, KSČM and KDU-ČSL), but all of them with diminished numbers of votes. The last notable thing about the election is the debacle of the social democratic party, which has received less than 4 % of the vote and has for the first time failed to win any seats.

 

The overall assessment also depends on one’s point of view. On one hand, parties supporting a referendum on Czexit (or CzechOut) have won only 3 out of 21 seats; on the other hand, parties supporting further EU integration have won only 8 seats. Parties supporting the current Czech government managed to get only 7 seats, but due to the low turnout (28,7 %, which is the highest ever at EP elections in the Czech Republic) we must be careful in drawing conclusions from this result. In the end, these elections probably will not change much neither on the Czech, nor on EU level.

 

 

Michal Hejl

Analyst working for the Institute of Social and Economic Research.