The Christian Democratic Party is gearing up for the autumn general elections. At the party’s weekend conference in Prague, its leader Pavel Bělobrádek was re-elected by a strong majority and won approval for an election coalition with the grouping of Mayors and Independents, presenting the alliance as a guarantor of strength, democracy and security in the turbulent and often murky waters of Czech politics.
“We want to be the decisive force in Czech politics. We want to offer voters an alternative –a trustworthy political party which is not burdened by the past and is focussed on the future and the need to modernize the country.”
In a passionate speech on the opening day of the conference Bělobrádek said the Czech Republic faced a choice which would decide its future – whether it would remain a standard parliamentary democracy, move towards authoritarian rule or a semi-presidential system. It was a shot at AN0 leader Andrej Babiš who is said to run his party as he did his business empire and criticism of President Zeman who has come under fire for overstepping his powers as head of state.
Bělobrádek, who helped the Christian Democrats back into national politics in 2013, was re-elected party leader by a strong majority and easily won support for his plan to create an election coalition with the Mayors AND Independents. He was confident enough about the plan to unveil a promo video of the coalition to be used in the election campaign. Zlín governor Jiří Čunek, who challenged him for the top post at the last minute, suffered a humiliating defeat.
As a coalition of two political entities the Christian Democrats and Mayors need to win, not five, but ten percent of the vote to secure seats in the lower house. Some consider the plan risky, others say it is a bold move likely to pay out. By forging the alliance the Christian Democrats want to shake off the image of a party linked to Catholic values and supported by a church-going electorate. They are hoping that the coalition with the liberal Mayors and Independents will open the door to younger voters and broaden the party’s support base. “Traditional values with a modern slant” is the party’s new moto, somewhat belied by the fact that there isn’t a single woman in the new party leadership.
Commentators note that much will depend on whether the two groupings’ traditional voters will approve of the alliance and there is also the psychological aspect of whether voters will believe that the coalition has a chance of crossing the ten percent threshold since they would otherwise risk losing their vote by supporting them. Clearly aware of this, Bělobrádek is upbeat about the coalition’s chances, saying it can realistically aim for 20 percent of the vote.
If it manages to cross the ten percent threshold it will be an acceptable coalition partner for many. Both the Social Democrats and ANO of the ruling coalition have already said they could envisage future cooperation. And Miroslav Kalousek, leader of the centre-right TOP 09, was unable to resist a jibe at the Christian Democrats –who are often seen as willing partners in any government- saying that if things turn out right he was sure the party would be happy to cooperate in undoing some of the unfortunate measures it helped to push through in the current coalition.