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For Czechs, EU elections have never been in the spotlight

19th February 2019

Five years after the 2014 European Parliament elections (which had the ignominious distinction of attracting the lowest ever turnout), European citizens have a chance to influence European dynamics once again, this time with 705 MEPs up for election across the EU. For Czechs, EU elections have never been in the spotlight but, considering the wide range of candidates and overall fragmentation, this year’s results may be quite unique. Therefore, we thought it would be useful to provide you with a brief overview of the landscape of Czech EP candidates.

Let us start with an overview of the traditional parties such as the Social Democrats, the Civic Democratic Party and Christian Democrats. What these parties all have in common is that they mostly engage in solid policy work. Unfortunately, we think that the activities of some of their MEPs are not promoted enough locally. For example, did you know that Jan Zahradil (Civic Democrats) is ECR leader for the European Commission election? Or that Olga Sehnalová (Social Democrats) won a prestigious MEP Award for culture, education and sport in 2017? What’s more, the prestigious Politico magazine ranks Pavel Svoboda among the 40 most influential MEPs because of his chairmanship of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI).

While we focus on traditional political parties, we must not forget the current frontrunner in the polls – the ANO Movement. Originally founded as an anti-establishment movement eight years ago, its track record might make some wonder whether it is now part of the current establishment. Furthermore, ANO relies on candidates that have gained experience in the previous five-year term, with Ms Dlabajová and Ms Charazová named the ballot leaders.

Nor should we overlook the alleged “dark horse” of this election, the Pirate Party. Following their stable results in recent polls and their very pro-transparency attitude, they could very well emerge as a surprise front-runner in this election. Their leader is software specialist Marcel Kolajda, who harbours great ambitions when it comes to digital policy. Considering their grassroots background and anti-establishment appeal, backed up by fresh candidates and result-oriented marketing, they might attract most attention among the Czech electorate.

Finally, over the past few weeks and months we have seen new political movements surface. The more traditional and experience-based ones, represented by the Voice Movement (Hnutí Hlas), which was established by the current MEPs Petr Ježek and Pavel Telička – a former candidate for the ANO Movement (2014-2017, then independent in 2017-2019). Apart from that, we can also assume that Jaromír Soukup’s Sheet Movement (Hnutí List Jaromíra Soukupa) will be in the running. This is a new movement founded by the billionaire and media magnate Jaromír Soukup, who has close ties with Czech President Miloš Zeman. The movement has potential support among euro-sceptics and supporters of national interests.

With lots of uncertainty swirling around the outcome of the election and existing political parties currently fragmented, it is increasingly difficult to estimate any results at this point. Going by the outcome of this weekend’s ANO conference, what we can say is that the elections might reflect the public’s view of their government, but that will largely depend on voter turnout, which has been notoriously low in the Czech Republic.  

Jan Herec

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