Parliamentary elections were held in the Czech Republic on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October. The Czech Social Democratic Party had been in coalition with ANO 2011 and the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party since the last elections in 2013. The 2017 elections saw ANO 2011, the party founded by businessman and former Minister for Finance, Andrej Babiš, win the biggest share of votes but not an outright majority.
The Czech Parliament has two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Elections to the Chamber of Deputies are held every four years. The Chamber has 200 members who are elected by a proportional representation system. Parties must win at least 5 per cent of the vote to take seats in the Chamber.
ANO 2011, the party founded and led by businessman Andrej Babiš, has consistently led opinion polling since 2014. The party continued to poll strongly this year, despite a government crisis. Prime Minister and leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), Bohuslav Sobotka, resigned in May 2017 in protest of alleged financial irregularities concerning then-Finance Minister Babiš’. Prime Minister Sobotka reversed his decision several days later, and later that month dismissed Mr Babiš, replacing him with Ivan Pilný, also of the ANO 2011 party.
Ten days before Czechs went to the polling booths, Mr Babiš was charged with fraud for allegedly misusing European Union funds. Mr Babiš denies these allegations, as he denies the allegations made against him when he was Minister for Finance.
The issue of immigration was central in the election campaign. During the campaign, Mr Babiš said “we must reform the EU and stop illegal immigration”. He campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and said that he would use his skills as a businessman to run the country, stating “I’m a danger to this corrupt system”.
Turnout was 60.8 per cent, an increase of 1.3 per cent on the previous election in 2013. The ANO 2011 party won 29.6 per cent of the vote. It is the biggest party with 78 seats but did not win an outright majority. This is an increase of 11 per cent and 31 seats from the previous election.
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won the second biggest share of the vote with 11.3 per cent. The ODS will take 25 seats, an increase of 3.6 per cent (9 seats) in vote share. The Czech Pirate Party won 10.8 per cent of votes (22 seats) which is an increase of 8.1 per cent on 2013. The Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party, contesting its first parliamentary elections, took 10.6 per cent of votes (22 seats). Founded in May 2015, the SPD’s leader and founder, Tomio Okamura, wants the Czech Republic to leave the EU, to push for “zero-tolerance” of immigration, and stop “any Islamisation” of the country.
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia won 7.8 per cent of votes (15 seats). This represents a loss of 7.2 per cent in vote share, and 18 less seats, from 2013. The ČSSD, which had previously been the biggest party in the Chamber of Deputies with 50 seats, won 7.3 per cent of votes (15 seats). This represents a loss of 13.1 per cent in votes and 35 seats. Their coalition partners, the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL), returned 5.8 per cent of votes (10 seats), representing a 1 per cent drop in votes and a loss of 4 seats.
The TOP 09 party returned 5.3 per cent of the vote share (7 seats), a loss of 6.7 per cent (19 seats) from 2013. The Mayors and Independents (STAN) party took 5.2 per cent of votes (6 seats). During the 2013 election, STAN ran its candidates on the TOP 09 list.
As leader of ANO 2011, Mr Babiš will now hold talks to try and form a coalition government.
Mr Babiš has previously accused the EU of “meddling” and has opposed EU-mandated immigration quotas, stating in August 2016 that he did not want “even a single refugee in the Czech Republic, not even temporarily”. He announced during his victory speech that ANO 2011 was a “pro-European party”. In a post-election interview, he said that the Czech Republic must seek allies beyond the Visegrad Group of EU Member States (made up of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia) to find common ground on issues such as migration and food quality, stating that the country must seek an active role in the EU.