Municipal Elections: Orient Yourself
Municipal elections will be taking place throughout the Czech Republic in just a little over two weeks – 5 and 6 October. Here in Brno, this means elections to the local councils in the city’s 29 districts as well as to the City of Brno council, which has 55 members. Some foreigners are eligible to vote in these elections.
To learn how you can vote, see this article: Municipal Elections: a Manual for Expats. To get a quick overview of the significant parties participating in the Brno City Council elections, read the following paragraphs.
The current broad five-party governing coalition in the City of Brno council comprises of:
- ANO (a centre-right party founded six years ago: its head is currently the Czech Prime Minister; 12 councillors),
- the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL, a centrist party with its roots in the Catholic Church going back almost a century; 7 councillors),
- Žít Brno (literally, “Live [the verb, not the adjective] Brno“, a party that was originally a satirical civic activist NGO and entered the political arena in the last municipal election four years ago; 6 councillors),
- the Green Party (SZ, despite ups and downs nationally a party that has enjoyed relatively steady support in Brno over the years; 4 councillors)
- and TOP 09 (a right-of-centre party with strong pro-EU views; 4 councillors).
In opposition are
- the Czech Social Democrat Party (ČSSD, European-type social democrats with the country’s oldest party pedigree, going back 125 years; 11 councillors),
- the Civic Democratic Party (ODS, the dominant right-of-centre party in the country for the past quarter of a century; 5 councillors)
- and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM, the successor to the pre-1990 Communist Party of Czechoslovakia; 4 councillors).
- Another 2 councillors are independents.
For most of the period from the end of Communism until the most recent elections in 2014, the dominant parties in the city were the ODS, ČSSD and (with smaller numbers) the KDU-ČSL. However, the past ten years have witnessed a fragmentation of the political scene throughout the Czech Republic, with the big losers being the traditional parties, and Brno was no exception to this trend.
The elections in 2014 marked a clear break with the past, and it is likely the upcoming elections will be equally surprising, in that they bring with them at least three major unknowns. Firstly, most of the parties represented at City Hall at the present time have been losing support in recent polls, both locally and nationally, and it is an open question as to how much they will manage to attract this time around.
Secondly, a record number of parties (or in some cases groupings rather than parties in the strict sense of the term) will be taking part – twenty-two in all – and among them are parties that have been attracting increasing support recently.
Thirdly, many parties are extremely unlikely to garner more than a very few votes, well under the 5% required for them to be gain admission to the City Council.
Of those parties that are generally regarded as having at least some chance of passing the 5% threshold and making it into the City Council for the first time, three are currently represented in the national Parliament. One is Freedom and Direct Democracy – Tomio Okamura (SPD), a far-right populist party led by the individual whose name forms part of the party’s name. The second is the Czech Pirate Party (ČPS). Difficult to place in the political spectrum, it is socially liberal with a left-of-centre dash of libertarianism. The third party in this group is Mayors and Independents (STAN), a pragmatic liberal party that stresses localism and promotes greater powers for municipalities.
Perhaps two other parties not currently represented in City Hall might be regarded as having a chance of passing the 5% hurdle. One is Brno Plus, a party established by a former Deputy Mayor who left the ODS in dissatisfaction over how it was developing, but continued to be an active voice in the local political scene through his blog. The other is Smart Moravian Metropolis, founded by a current Deputy Mayor who left TOP09 in the wake of decisions made by the local branch of his party.
From what I have written it is not difficult to deduce that the results of this year’s municipal elections in Brno are very hard to predict. In this, Brno is not unique. The country is passing through a complicated phase in its political development, and much seems up for grabs everywhere: probably the vast majority of cities in the country are facing a similar situation this time around. This, of course, means political scientists are having a field day, but it is difficult for ordinary mortals to make out much through the haze of their verbiage. In truth, it might be just as helpful to seek answers from fortune tellers and clairvoyants. Could someone out there lend me a crystal ball?