• President Vaclav Klaus has scheduled this year's general election for May 28-29, the last possible date to hold the vote.
  • Miloš Zeman, who served as prime minister as a member of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), will run as the candidate of the new Citizens' Rights Party in the Ustecky region of northern Bohemia. The Citizens' Rights Party is a Social Democrat splinter group that formed last year around Zeman. (Zeman retired from politics after stepping down as prime minister in 2002. A year later, he lost his bid for the presidency to Vaclav Klaus.)
  • The Green Party (SZ) has picked its regional candidates for the elections. Party Chairman Ondřej Liška will top the Green ballot in Prague, while former Green leader Martin Bursik will lead the party in Usti nad Labem in northern Bohemia. A Gypsy activist and Romany language lecturer will lead the Greens’ list in the region of Parudbice, eastern Bohemia.
  • The Civic Democratic Party (ODS)’s executive council expelled two influential members of its Brno branch, Ales Kvapil and Radovan Novotny, after they were detained in connection with corruption charges. Both will be deleted from the ODS party list. Kvapil also resigned as mayor and assemblyman from Brno's Zabovresky district. He is accused of demanding a bribe from a developer who wanted to construct a building in his wealthy district. The two men face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

 

Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk

 

The race is wide open. Polls put the ČSSD a few points ahead of the ODS, but no party is expected to win an absolute majority, thanks in part to the country’s proportional-representation voting system. Potential coalition partners are far from clear. Opinion polls suggest that two-, three-, or even four-party coalitions are possible. This raises concerns that the new government may be even less stable than the last one. A parliamentary deadlock, like the 100-100 left-right split that resulted from the 2006 vote, also cannot be ruled out.

 

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) has never been part of any coalition, but that might change if the ČSSD can form a majority with the Communists. In this scenario, the ČSSD’s only alternative would be a grand coalition with the ODS.

 

The ČSSD has not benefitted from the ODS’s corruption scandal, mostly because its own members’ names have also come up in connection with some less-than-honorable matters. The balance of power therefore depends on how many parties make it into Parliament: It is questionable whether the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-ČSL) and the Green Party will pass the 5% threshold for parliamentary representation, while Miloš Zeman’s party is all but invisible in public opinion surveys. Polls show that TOP 09 – an offshoot of the ODS – is becoming a medium-sized party and its leader, Karel Schwarzenberg, is the most trusted politician in the country. TOP 09 will definitely change the balance of forces and may end up in a kingmaker role.