Czech Republic and the European Parliament elections 2004

16.03.04 @ 10:22

  1. By Lucia Kubosova

EUOBSERVER / EP-elections 2004 - The Czech Republic is holding its first elections to the European parliament on 11 and 12 June and turnout is expected to be relatively high.

  • Czech eurosceptics heading for a triumph in the very first European elections (Photo: European Commission)

About 63 per cent of the Czech voters are planning to turn up for the ballot, according to the most recent polls (by Czech agency CVVM, June 4).

Support for the Czech political parties running in the European elections are almost identical to their current scores on the national level.

Eurosceptics head the field

Of the 24 seats in the European Parliament assigned for the Czech Republic, the main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) is expected to win the most (25.5 percent).

The conservative ODS list is topped by its deputy chairman Jan Zahradil. The party is viewed as strongly critical of the EU - an image nurtured by its former leader and current Czech President, Vaclav Klaus.

But the ODS may face problems when it comes to joining a group within the European Parliament. One of the most outspoken opponents of the ODS are the German members of the centre-right group the European People's Party (EPP-ED).

They argue that the Czech conservatives should not be accepted as members after the June elections because of their anti-European views and unwillingness to abolish the so-called Benes decrees.

The decrees, providing a legal basis for the eviction of ethnic Germans, from Czechoslovakia, were issued by President Edvard Benes in 1945.

The leading figures of the ODS hope they will manage to make a similar deal with the EPP to that of the British conservatives which will allow them to pursue their eurosceptic agenda whilst remaining within the group.

Ruling parties lag behind

The other opposition Communist party (KSCM) is running second in the polls (11.5 percent). Its list is topped by deputy chairman Miloslav Ransdorf, a pro-EU moderate candidate.

But the highlight of the communists is the second man on the list, the former Czech astronaut Vladimir Remek.

The Social democrats (CSSD) of the Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla follow with 9,5 percent. The party list is headed by the spokesman of the former government, Libor Roucek.

The CSSD has been losing ground against the opposition because of some unpopular domestic policies, but also due to the lack of coordination with its minor coalition partners: the Christian democrats, KDU-CSL and the conservatives, US-DU.

Whereas the former should get around 7.5 percent, the latter will probably not even reach the 5 percent threshold needed for the election.

Personalities, not the parties

Polls show that a large part of Czech citizens will vote for concrete personalities, without caring too much about their party membership.

And indeed, apart from the star astronaut from the pre-1989 era, the Czech race for the European Parliament has thrown up several other unusual figures including a German porn star Dolly Buster, a senator and former commercial television NOVA general director, Vladimir Zelezny and former head of the Harvard Investment Funds, Viktor Kozeny, who allegedly stole the concept for the website of his newly-founded party from the former US presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Number of MEPs to be elected: 24

Election day: 11 and 12 June 2004

Turnout in latest national election 14 and 15 June 2002: 58.0%

Distribution of current Observers in the European Parliament:

14 PPE-ED Obèanská demokratická strana (8) - Køes

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