The Czech Greens (Strana zelených, SZ) were not counting on such a poor result in the recent EP elections. SZ won just 2.06 % of the vote and ended up in ninth place.
Four Czech parties made it into the EP: The Civic Democrats (ODS – nine seats), the Social Democrats (ČSSD – seven seats), the Communist Party (KSČM – four seats) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL – two seats). The euroskeptic party “Sovereignty” (Suverenita), founded by Czech MEP Jana Bobošíková, almost made the 5 % threshold. Voter turnout was comparable to 2004, at 28.22 %.
ODS, led by party chair Mirek Topolánek, who was toppled from his post as Czech prime minister in March of this year, won the EP elections with a 9 % lead over ČSSD. The Social Democrats also have a success to record: A five-seat gain over the 2004 EP elections.
A bad sign for the early elections
The SZ results are comparable to those of other Green Parties in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the difference is that the Greens in the Czech Republic are not a non-parliamentary force, and until recently still shared responsibility for governing. The Czech Green Party EP results are not a good sign for the early elections in October. Even though they had not counted on crossing the 5 % threshold, they had expected at least 3 % of the vote. The SZ result is worse than in 2004, when they won 3.16 %.
Czech Green Party chair Martin Bursík offered to resign on the night of the elections and definitively resigned on 8 June. Former Vice-Chair Ondřej Liška will now chair the party until its next convention.
Before the party continues its next steps, it must carefully analyze the electoral results with a view to the upcoming early elections. In the run-up to the EP-elections, the Greens were one of only a few parties with the courage to wage their campaign on European topics, not national ones. They did their best to get young voters through Facebook. Many artists and other personalities, such as Václav Havel, expressed their support for the party. Despite all this, the Greens were not successful.
Reasons for failure
It is not just the poor electoral results that are alarming: Out of a total of 33 parties competing, eight of those parties placed before the Green Party. Three of the parties that achieved better results than the SZ probably deprived them of several votes, namely, the European Democratic Party (Evropská demokratická strana), Public Affairs (Věci veřejné) and the Mayors and Independents – Your Alternative (Starostové a nezávislí – Vaše alternativa) parties. Potential green voters probably saw an alternative in these parties and an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the intra-party conflict in the SZ, which lasted many months.
The Democratic Green Party (Demokratická strana zelených - DSZ), founded this spring, won just 0.62 % of the vote. Former SZ MP Olga Zubová ran in second place on the party’s candidate list. Given the flood of DSZ billboards around the country, it was hard to avoid seeing her image. Financing for the electoral campaign was given to the DSZ through a gift from the very controversial entrepreneur Jaroslav Soukup. It is very obvious that his ambition was actually to damage the SZ. A third party also turned up using the word “green” in its name, Political Movement – Greens (Politické hnutí – Zelení), and received a mere 0.15 % of the vote. The founding of the DSZ and Political Movement – Greens was the result of the power struggles inside the SZ and did not add to the attractiveness of the party from the voters’ point of view. It is understandably difficult for the voters to orient themselves in this confusing array of parties. The aggressive campaign by both of the big parties, focused on national topics, was also very polarising and added to the problem. Low voter turnout, according to many experts, also did not have a positive influence on the Green Party results, because their electoral base is not large.
The Czech Greens themselves made mistakes which they must reflect upon and from which they should draw conclusions: The elections were preceded by months of ongoing conflicts inside the party, which were publicised in the media. These culminated in four party members being excluded from the party ranks. Two MPs who left the party club in the fall and who then did their best to promote their own policies outside the party structures voted against the government in March during a no-confidence vote. The governing coalition of ODS, KDU-ČSL and SZ thus fell during the Czech EU presidency due to this successful declaration of no confidence. The successes achieved by the Green ministers in the areas of the environment, education, foreign affairs and minority rights could not be sufficiently communicated due to these conflicts and the unstable domestic political situation. During the election campaign itself there were also unprofessional performances by Green Party representatives which the voters especially harshly criticised and distributed through YouTube and Facebook.
New faces missing
Another problem was that in the weeks prior to the elections, the Greens did not manage to make their new faces sufficiently visible. The main candidate for the Czech Greens was the current Deputy Environment Minister, Jan Dusík, who was definitely a good choice. Of course, people do not know Dusík very well and during the campaign he was too much in the shadow of the other candidates. SZ should have promoted this “new face” more. Many voters unfortunately did not even know that Dusík was the lead candidate. It is interesting that the non-party candidate Jiřina Šiklová, famous as a sociologist both at home and abroad, won almost 20 % of the preferential votes in fourth place on the candidate list. Dusík won 8.7 % of the preferential votes, and Czech MP and party Vice-Chair Kateřina Jacques, who ran in second place, received 11.9 % of the preferential votes.
Unfortunately, no Green deputies will be seated at the EP to represent the Czech Republic. The strongest party continues to be ODS. Representatives of this party constantly warn that intensifying European integration threatens the national sovereignty of the Member States. Czech President Václav Klaus, the former honourary chair of ODS, has determined the politics of this party for years. However, now he has distanced himself from it, as it strikes him as being too accommodating vis-a-vis the EU. The situation can be summarised as follows: The Czech presidency of the Council of the EU and Green participation in government were good for ODS, but participation in government cost the Czech Greens many votes.
The Czechs take many things with humour. A recent joke goes like this: “God invites Klaus, Obama, and Putin to visit and tells them the world is ending in two weeks. Back home, Obama and Putin tell their countries they have some good news and some bad news: The good news is that God exists, and the bad news is that the world will end in two weeks. In Prague, Klaus announces he has two good pieces of news: He is one of the three most important men in the world, and the Lisbon Treaty will never take effect.”
Klaus will probably attempt to stir things up a bit in the months to come. On the day after the EP elections, he said they had not even been “half-elections”, but that due to low voter turnout they should be considered “quarter-elections”. What is absurd about this statement is that it was Klaus himself who definitely contributed to that low voter turnout. Even though it probably pleases him no end that the Czech Greens did not get an EP seat, there is no doubt he considers the overall gains for the Green club as a whole at the EP to be an eyesore.