The elections for the European Parliament will take place all around the EU at the end of May. Every election, the Czech Republic sends 21 members in the European Parliament (the figure won’t change after the U.K. leaves the bloc).
While many Czech political parties have already released their program, one can notice a growing effort towards trying to increase participation and reverse the trend of the impressively low voter turnout (18.2% in 2014, the second lowest after Slovakia) in the Czech Republic, one of the most Eurosceptic nations in the EU.
Here’s a quick overview of the current Czech MEP’s and candidates for the upcoming election, the main issues addressed by Czech political parties, as well as the power balance, expected winners and losers of the European ballot.
Czech political parties currently represented in the European Parliament
The ruling party ‘ANO’, which means ‘Yes’ in Czech, currently boasts one of the largest representations from the Czech Republic in the European Parliament, with 4 MEPs. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has left the reins of the campaign to Dita Charanzová, ANO MEP along with Martina Dlabajová, Petr Ježek, and Pavel Telička. Winner of the 2014 European elections in 2014 with 16.1% of the votes, ANO is part of the European parliamentary group the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).
Part of the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the EU Parliament, the TOP 09 and Mayors + Independents also has four MEPs in Strasbourg (Luděk Niedermayer, Stanislav Polčák, Jiří Pospíšil and Jaromír Štětina), and came second five years ago (16% of the ballots). Also members of the EPP, the Christian and Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL) boasts three MEPs: Michaela Šojdrová, Pavel Svoboda and Tomáš Zdechovský. They received 10% of the votes five years ago.
The Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), who led the Czech government from 2013 to 2017 but received a beating in the last domestic elections, also has a large standing in the EU since the 2014 elections, when it came at the third position with 14.2% of the votes. The center-left party sent four MEPs under the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second biggest European political grouping after the EPP: Jan Keller, Pavel Poc, Miroslav Poche and Olga Sehnalová.
Member of the European United Left (EUL), the Communist Party of the Czech Republic (KSČM) has three MEP’s in the current European Parliament legislature (Miloslav Ransdorf, Kateřina Konečná and Jiří Maštálka) and was the fourth biggest political force in the 2014 elections, receiving 11% of the votes. Two smaller factions, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Party of Free Citizens respectively two and one MEPs in the 2014-2019 session.
Who’s running and what are the key issues?
Chances are we’ll be seeing more of ANO in these elections, still the most popular party in the Czech Republic riding high in polls at around 30% of voting intentions. ANO has put forward 27 candidates running to be MEPs in this year’s elections. A self-declared pro-European party, ANO treads a fine and ambiguous line regarding its European orientation, advocating more prerogatives to individual states and less bureaucratic power for Brussels technocrats. In an interview with local media, Dita Charanzová outlined ANO’s main concerns, including immigration and the need to step up the EU’s security: “Europe should return to its original mission […]: security and prosperity on the continent.” In its program, the party highlights the need to reduce public debt and the importance of investments in infrastructure as well as increasing teachers’ wages.
Civic Democratic Party (ODS)
Led by Jan Zahradil, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) will present 28 candidates for the European Parliament. ODS published a list of ‘The Ten Commandments for Europe’ specifying their stances and main selling points ahead of the EU Elections. The center-right party, which scored high in last year’s local elections, believes the chief powers should be in the hands of individual EU member states and the European institutions should only be there as a recourse. ODS advocates for the European Union to be more flexible and give more leeway to member states in making their own decisions. The party also states that freedom of movement within the Schengen zone is exclusive to EU citizens and wants the EU to stop interfering in national asylum and migration policies. They unequivocally support the Czech Republic’s NATO membership.
The Pirate Party
With no current representation in European Parliament, the Pirate Party will try to break into the sphere for the first time in its ten-year history. Led by Marcel Kolaja, the Czech Pirates have 28 candidates for the EP elections and have been informing people on how to vote, hoping for a larger turnout that’s expected to boost their chances, according to analysts. The Pirate Party, the second biggest political force in the Czech Republic according to recent polls, listed the main issues it wants to push for in the European Parliament: preservation of accessible and free movement in the EU, internet without censorship and consumer protection are some of their key issues. Their program also strongly focuses on environmental protection, renewable energy and greater equality amongst EU members.
Communist Party of Czech Republic (KSČM)
Just like their main competitors, the Czech Communist Party presented 28 candidates for the European Parliament under the leadership of Katerina Konečná. Their stance is very critical towards both the European Union and NATO. In their statement regarding the 2019 EP elections, KSČM expresses the need for more power for EU member states and also stresses the importance for better care for workers and unemployed, and advocates additional pressure on foreign-owned companies who operate in Czechia.
Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD)
Pavel Poc is the spokesman for the Social Democratic Party, which presented 28 members for election in the European Parliament. The CSSD created a web page trying to convince yet-undecided voters ‘why to vote for CSSD’ The party prides itself on being one of the oldest parties in the Czech Republic, and presents one of its main goals as the development of the social welfare state : affordable housing, better access for disabled individuals and protection of food quality are other of the key issues presented by CSSD.
Mayors and Independents + TOP09
Jiří Pospíšil and Luděk Niedermayer will be the leaders for TOP 09 + Mayors and Independents, which run together. Their common program states the need to invest heavily for the modernization of communications and educational infrastructure in order to increase the quality of life for Czech citizens. Environmental and regional development and security are also on the agenda, as is the importance of implementing a common migration policy within the EU.
Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD)
Tomio Okamura, the infamous and embattled leader of the far-right party, will not be running with his party in order to keep his seat in the Czech Parliament, instead leaving the reins of the campaign to Ivan David. At the center of the program of the SPD, which currently doesn’t have any MEP in Strasbourg, lies the protection of traditional family and civic values and the support for a ‘Czexit’ referendum (SPD is one of the only Czech parties calling for the Czech Republic to leave the EU).
What outcome can be expected?
ANO, well ahead at 30% of voting intentions, is expected to win big in those elections. The predictions may also be a good sign for the Czech Pirate Party, which could cement its place as one of the main opposition parties and gain for the first time since its creation, ten years ago, a place at the EU decision-making table.
While the momentum seems to be in favour of the two self-declared anti-establishment parties ANO and the Pirates, analysts expect the two traditional Czech political forces (center-right ODS and center-left CSSD) to see their standing further challenged and belittled after the elections. Meanwhile, support for TOP 09 + Mayors and Independents (STAN) remains low, as both only amass a total of 7,5%, and the political alliance could lose grip in the elections.
A large concern that remains is whether or not the voter turnout will rise this year. Only 18% of Czech voters participated in the 2014 EP elections, according to Euronews, compared to an EU average of 42%. That makes the Czech Republic the country with the second lowest voter turnout out of all EU member states, after neighboring Slovakia.
The results, changes, new party composition and lessons will be discussed here on Kafkadesk after the May elections, so stay tuned!
Written by Lorna Radtke
Lorna Radtke is a student of international relations and European politics at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and has previously also lived in Austria. Her desire to dive into European politics began during her secondary education years in the United States, her home country. Eager to pursue her interest in media and journalism by researching intriguing topics and creating original articles, she joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. You can find all of her articles here!