Czech General Election 2021: Heading West Again

The Czech general election in early October and their impacts have brought many moments of surprise. First of all, incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ ruling party was defeated by two centre-right coalitions of 5 parties. The most extreme populists and the communists have not made it into the Parliament, while liberal parties received a clear majority in the House. Overall, the outcome of the vote is widely considered as a victory for liberal democracy in the Czech Republic.

Second, Czech president Miloš Zeman, 77 years old, fell seriously ill and was taken to an intensive care unit the day after the polls.

Zeman, who is seen as a keen admirer of eastern autocrats by liberal voters, made it clear without any scruples well ahead of the election that he would do whatever it takes to install Andrej Babis to the office of the PM again. Luckily for the country and its political culture, a swift deterioration of the president’s health made this scenario right on the verge of Constitution almost impossible.

Babiš, one of the richest Czech businessmen for almost two decades, who became a Viktor Orban-like politician in recent years, quickly realized his odds and practically switched sides on the spot. He started open criticism of the closest co-workers of the president who were until recently almost untouchable and misused their positions for shady business. Obviously, Andrej Babis already kicked-off his presidential campaign and seeks to attract some liberal voters. Having the best intelligence as PM on Zeman’s health, he and his advisory team obviously put two and two together and expect that the presidential office will become vacant sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the Czech Senate (Upper House) made repeated inquiries about Zeman’s actual condition as this was kept secret by his cronies. Finally, the hospital issued a statement confirming that the president is unable to exercise his duties due to his ill health. Czech liberal politicians see this as a good opportunity to strip Zeman (at least temporarily) of his presidential powers until he recovers. Actual removal of the president from the office is under the Czech Constitution possible only for a high treason. If the Parliament approves stripping of the powers, Zeman will remain a “sleeping” president, who will still be granted all the benefits; however, he will have no real authority to interfere in the political process and harm the winning liberal parties. In such case, the new Prime Minister will be appointed by the Speaker of the House who is to be chosen by the winning coalitions by mid –November. Hopefully, with a new liberal government and president Zeman being put on ice, Czechia will re-assure its democratic values and pro-western political and economic orientation.

Mgr. Radek Werich