Law and governance
Czech political parties have perceived the EU elections as second-order for several good reasons: Czechs are not that interested in European parliamentary politics, they vote for only a relatively small slice of the total composition of the European Parliament, and parties have traditionally underestimated the campaign for these elections in the past. But all this may not be true a year from now.
"The essential characteristic of a second-order election is that it affects the karma of the parties if it is followed by a first order election, in a foreseeable future. In our case, in another year and a half there will be elections to the Chamber of Deputies, which is a short time in politics. Second-order elections define the favourites, indicate which parties need to step up, and break the necks of their leaders, sometimes giving birth to new challengers," Chytilek says.
The various challenges associated with this expected effect are already being addressed by the parties. "The SPOLU parties are intensively considering whether their ability to reassemble a coalition and demonstrate that the alliance is durable will balance out the divisions that exist between them on a number of European issues. The elections should also confirm the coalition's, though not necessarily ideological, split between STAN and the Pirates. Preferential voting exists in these elections as well and either party would face the same risk of being outvoted as in the parliamentary elections," Chytilek said.
The situation of the ANO movement is specific, he says, because on the one hand it must compete with protest parties such as SPD, Trikolóra or PRO, which it will want to defeat as much as possible and to discourage at least some of them from participating in the next parliamentary elections, where they would fight for the same voters. On the other hand, it wants to present itself as a worthy government alternative, but some voters may be put off by the shift to too radical rhetoric.
"The need not to lose too many voters to the protest parties may explain the shift of the party and especially Andrej Babiš towards more Euroscepticism. Under certain conditions, he could even make harsh criticism of the European Union a major issue in European elections, something he has so far avoided," Chytilek says. For smaller protest parties, he says, the prospect of a reaching to financial contribution for the election result, the barrier for which is set very low, can play a significant role in their various strategic considerations. The elections will also suggest whether or not the water has closed over parties such as the ČSSD, KSČM or Přísaha.
In terms of the contest between the government and the opposition, two opposing elements will clash in the European elections. "On the one hand, the elections will be held in the middle of the election cycle of the Chamber of Deputies, when support for the government is traditionally lowest due to the unpopular policies it adopts in the first half of the election cycle; on the other hand, voters of the current government parties are traditionally more willing to participate in European elections," Chytilek said. He said it will also be interesting to see what will prevail, as we can almost certainly expect a significantly higher turnout than in the last European elections, when it did not exceed 30% in 2019.