Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek announced he would stand down as party leader within 10 days following disappointing election results. He said the decision was a personal one and the party needed a new start. Mr. Paroubek said the Czech people had made their decision about which way the country should go and he respected it. He added that the election result was a defeat for the party but also, more importantly, a defeat for ordinary people. The party would have to analyse in the coming days why the final results were so at odds with the pre-election opinion polls which consistently showed the party as a clear election winner. The party would be run by its deputy chairman ahead of a final decision about who the new leader would be, he added. The final result represented a collapse in support since the last elections in 2006 when they gained around 32 percent. The resignation might improve the party's slim chances of taking part in a government.
With counting for elections to the lower house of parliament completed in
99.9 percent of voting districts, the left of centre Social Democrats were
in the lead with 22.1 percent followed by the Civic Democrats on 20.2
percent, according to the Czech Statistical Office. The recently created
TOP 09 party was third with 16.7 percent followed by the Communists with
11.3 percent and the Public Affairs party with 10.9 percent. The Christian
Democrats and the party of former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš
Zeman were both just under the 5.0 percent threshold to entry to the lower
house with around 4.5 percent. The turnout was seen at just over 62.5
Czech Television predicted that these figures would translate into 57 seats in the 200-seat lower house for the Social Democrats. The Civic Democrats would gain 51 seats, TOP 09 41 seats, the Communists 26 seats and Public Affairs 25 seats. The Social Democrats appear to have won seats in most regions of the country apart from the Liberec, Hradec Králové and Central Czech regions won by the Civic Democrats. TOP 09 won in the former Civic Democrat bastion, Prague, with around 27 percent of the vote.
New parties TOP 09 and Public Affairs appear to have re-written the Czech political map after strong results. Together they are expected to have just under a third of seats in the lower house and a clear role in forming a future coalition. TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said the election result was a rejection of demagogy and extremism. His deputy Miroslav Kalousek, said the result was “phenomenal” for a party that was created only a year ago. Public Affairs leader Radek John said the predicted result was a damning verdict on the Social Democrat leader and on the major parties.
Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas said the results suggested the possibility a “coalition of budget responsibility,” a reference to the possibility of a centre-right coalition, probably with TOP 09 and the Public Affairs party. He added that the Czech Republic had shunned the temptation of populism. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said voters seemed to have chosen another direction from that offered by his party. He added that a right-wing coalition looked likely. Asked about his personal position, he said it was too early for a full evaluation.
President Klaus said the preliminary election results showed a clear weakening of the two main parties, the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats. That was an evident conclusion to draw from them, he added. The Czech president said that weakening had been expected before the election and was not a complete surprise. He refused to be drawn on the format of a future government saying that all the results needed to come in.
Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda announced he had tendered his resignation as party chairman. His announcement came as election results from most regions had come through with the long established party falling short of the 5.0 percent threshold needed for entry into the lower house. Mr. Svoboda said he expected the party to convene a meeting in June to decide its future. He added that it faced a clear challenge to rethink its direction. Separately, former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman said he would step down from the recently formed Party for Citizens’ Rights after it failed also to win a seat in the lower house. The leadership of the Green Party also said it would propose to let a party meeting decide on who would fill the top positions.
Polling stations closed for the second and final day of elections to the Czech lower house of parliament at 1400 hours on Saturday. Voters have been voting to fill the 200-seat lower house for the next four years. Surveys throughout the campaign put the left of centre Social Democrats in the lead but well short of a majority in the house. That has fuelled speculation that although the Social Democrats might gain the most votes, a centre-right coalition featuring the Civic Democrats and newcomer parties TOP 09 and Public Affairs might be one possible outcome. Twenty five parties contested the elections, the fifth since the country was created from the split with Slovakia in 1993.
A high turnout was suggested by initial reports from the around 15,000 polling stations nationwide. Around half of the around 8.0 million eligible voters are believed to have cast their votes on Friday with around 60 percent estimated to have voted by 11 am on Saturday. Around two-thirds of all voters usually cast their ballot on the first day, with that suggesting a final turnout figure of around 75 percent. The turnout at the last lower house elections in 2006 was just under 65 percent. Czech President Václav Klaus along with other political leaders set an example by voting early on Friday. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek voted in Teplice, north Bohemia, where he is heading his regional party election list, and Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas in his home town in northern Moravia.
Czech police said they had expelled 51 foreigners entering the country for an international meeting of the motorbike club, the Hell’s Angels. Earlier reports said many of the foreigners were Norwegians. Around 1,500 members of the worldwide gang with around 500 motorbikes had converged on Prague by Friday evening for the start of their meeting. No trouble was reported. Czech police had set up special checks near borders, Prague airport and near the meeting point. The gang last converged on the Czech capital for such a meeting in 2005.
The artistic council of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has called for its newly appointed director Václav Kasík to resign. Members of the orchestra have also called on him to go, saying that the dismissal of the previous director and appointment of his replacement by the minister of culture have been completely unorthodox. Mr. Kasík, formerly director of public broadcaster Czech Radio, says he has no intention of stepping down but would not stand in the way of a competition being held for his post. The failure to hold such a competition is one of the main complaints about his appointment.