Czech Republic Parliamentary Elections: October 2021 (due – snap elections possible)


Voters in Olomouc, in the country’s east, in the 2016 regional and Senate elections in the Czech Republic. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Jan Kameníček (CC BY-SA 4.0)

KEY FACTS
Freedom House Rating

Free
Government Type
Parliamentary Republic
Population
10.7 million
UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Parliamentary Elections
October 2021 (due – snap elections possible)
Municipal and Senate Elections
October 2022 (due)
Presidential Election
January 2023 (due)
Regional and Senate Elections
October 2024 (due)
PAST ELECTIONS
Regional and Senate Elections
October 2 and 3, 2020 (Second round: October 9-10, 2020)
Municipal and Senate Elections
October 5 and 6, 2018
Presidential Election
January 12 and 13, 2018
Parliamentary Elections
October 20 and 21, 2017

The Czech Republic is due to hold parliamentary elections in October 2021, although they could happen earlier. Voters will elect all 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house. In the Czech Republic’s parliamentary system, the prime minister – chosen based on the results of the parliamentary elections – heads the government and exercises most executive power.

As for the Senate, members serve six-year terms, and voters directly elect one-third of the house every two years.

Political Context

The 1989 Velvet Revolution ended 41 years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and the country held its first democratic elections in 1990. Subsequently, in 1993, Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, in what has been called the “Velvet Divorce.”

The anti-Communist dissident playwright Vaclav Havel, who died in 2011, became the country’s first president following the Velvet Revolution, and is widely considered a hero, not just in the Czech Republic, but among democracy activists worldwide. As Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, pointed out: “More so than any of the prominent figures from the period of anti-communist dissent, Havel used his position, voice and moral authority to advance present-day struggles for freedom.”

The Current Political Landscape in the Czech Republic

The current prime minister, controversial billionaire Andrej Babiš, came to power following the 2017 parliamentary elections. His populist ANO party won a plurality, but not majority, of seats, and he has had a turbulent tenure in office. It was not until July 2018 that he was able to form a governing coalition with the Social Democrats (ČSSD).

In the 2018 presidential election, anti-immigrant populist Miloš Zeman won a second term for president. Zeman has been a member of various parties, and ultimately founded his own party, Party of Civic Rights – Zeman’s people (SPOZ), in 2009. SPOZ is a left-wing populist party, in contrast to ANO’s right-wing populist ideology. However, both parties are more centered around the personalities of their leaders rather than ideology.

Both Babiš and Zeman have sought to move the Czech Republic closer to Russia and China, in contrast to previous governments, who have emphasized closer Euro-Atlantic integration. Zeman has made statements in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in addition to having close ties to Russian intelligence personnel.

The country is a parliamentary democracy; as such, the prime minister holds most executive power, while the president is the head of state. However, Zeman has been accused of overstepping his constitutional role, with Babiš being insufficiently powerful to stop him.

Geopolitical Context

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union (EU) in 2004. While a substantial number of Czechs have eurosceptic view, a Pew Research Foundation survey found that more than half do hold a favorable view of the EU. Moreover, while some smaller parties such as the Communists call for the country to leave NATO, much of the political class strongly supports NATO.

However, the debate over China looms large in Czech political circles at the moment. Both Babiš and Zeman have worked to build stronger links with China (and also Russia). Conversely, various political parties across the political spectrum have built links with Taiwan. For example, Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib established a sister city deal with Taipei. Additionally, Senate president Milos Vystrcil from ODS led an 80-member delegation to Taiwan to deepen ties, in defiance of Babiš and Zeman.

Curated News and Analysis

AP (October 3, 2020): Czech Republic: Andrej Babis’ party wins big in regional elections 

David Hutt, World Politics Review (September 23, 2020): As Czechs Debate Their Political Future, Vaclav Havel Returns to Center Stage

Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy (April 29, 2020): As Putin Seeks to Reinvent History, Russia-Czech Relations Hit a New Low

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content, and their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here

Updated October 30, 2020

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