Economics, not regionalism, root of Czech voting divide

05-06-2006

The weekend's elections have produced a perfect split in parliament. If you look at a map of the election results, it also shows an almost perfect split in the way Czechs voted. Throughout Moravia, the eastern part of the country, more voted in favour of the left-leaning Social Democrats, while most of Bohemia, the western part of the Czech Republic cast more votes for the centre-right Civic Democrats.

Chart: CTKChart: CTK All five regions of Moravia voted more in favour of the Social Democrats. Their greatest rival, the Civic Democrats, came away with victory in eight of the nine Bohemian regions. Vera Styskalikova is from the Department of Political Science at Masaryk University in Brno, the capital of Moravia. She says it's too simple to characterize the election results as Bohemia versus Moravia. The areas are by no means homogenous.

"You can't talk about Moravia as a whole, you know. Southern and central Moravia are rich. Northern Moravia, you can compare it to Western Bohemia. It's a poorer region. So you can't really take it as Moravia versus Bohemia."

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek, photo: CTK Political Scientist Borivoj Hnizdo says that economic differences are one main cause of the division in voting. It's not surprising areas hit by high unemployment and social uncertainty have always leaned more to the Left.

"One aspect can be the economic one. Unemployment in the Ostrava region is much higher than in Central Bohemia, especially Prague. We know that in Prague unemployment is actually not a problem at all because the numbers are about 2 to 3 percent. So it's not a problem in Prague. In Ostrava it is much higher than the average of the Czech Republic, which is roughly 9 percent at the moment."

Vera Styskalikova agrees.

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTKJiri Paroubek, photo: CTK "If you look at the election map, you see that the Social Democrats won in Moravia and in the western part of Bohemia, where the unemployment is quite high. The people in Northern Moravia, about 17 percent of them are unemployed. So they would vote either for the Communist party or the Socialist party."

The one place in Bohemia that saw the Civic Democrats defeated was north-west region of Usti nad Labem - one area in the west of the country that closely resembles economic conditions in the east. Even so, there as in many other regions the voting was close - with the Civic Democrats finishing a close second. It seems Czech politics have become far more polarised than in the past, with the two largest parties also snapping up the majority of the votes.

"This polarization is here, and I think will stay with us because voters now know maybe than before. They know that it's actually quite important to make the decision about whether they'll vote for this or that political party. This polarization maybe even more visible in the next election, but on the other side I think that there is a role for minor political parties and that they won't disappear from the Czech political scene."

05-06-2006