Czech coalition parties sought to avoid a snap election on Wednesday and find a way to steer the country toward a scheduled vote in October after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s shock resignation. Sobotka announced on Tuesday that he and his government would step down, less than six months before its term finishes, to resolve a long-running dispute with billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis, his main political rival. The Social Democrat leader, whose party trails Babis’s centrist ANO movement by a double-digit margin in polls, justified the risky and drastic step by saying that simply firing Babis would have turned him into a ‘martyr’.
Articles about voting issues in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic’s prime minister offered his resignation on Tuesday, saying he could no longer work with his finance minister and political rival, a populist billionaire whose party is favored in elections set for October. The prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said he would meet President Milos Zeman this week to formally submit his resignation and that of the cabinet. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Zeman would accept the resignations. At a news conference, Mr. Sobotka said he could not defend the conduct of the finance minister, Andrej Babis, a 62-year-old magnate-turned-politician who has rejected frequent comparisons to President Trump.
The Czech government is to set up a specialist “anti-fake news” unit as officials attempt to tackle falsehoods, predominantly about migrants, which they claim are spread by websites supported by the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The new unit will aim to counteract interference in the Czech Republic’s forthcoming general election, to be held in October, amid polling evidence that online disinformation is influencing public opinion and threatening to destabilise the country’s democratic system, established after the fall of communism in 1989. Although definite links are hard to prove, officials say they are convinced the Kremlin is behind about 40 Czech-language websites presenting radical views, conspiracy theories and inaccurate reports. The officials believe the objective is to transform the Czech Republic’s current status as a western-aligned country.
Czech Republic: Russian Hacker, Wanted by F.B.I., Is Arrested in Prague, Czechs Say | The New York Times
A man identified as a Russian hacker suspected of pursuing targets in the United States has been arrested in the Czech Republic, the police announced Tuesday evening. The suspect was captured in a raid at a hotel in central Prague on Oct. 5, about 12 hours after the authorities heard that he was in the country, where he drove around in a luxury car with his girlfriend, according to the police. The man did not resist arrest, but he had medical problems and was briefly hospitalized, the police said in a statement. David Schön, a police spokesman, said on Wednesday that the arrest of the man, whose name has not been released, was not announced immediately “for tactical reasons.” The police statement said that “the man was a Russian citizen suspected of hacking attacks on targets in the United States,” and that the raid was conducted in collaboration with the F.B.I. after Interpol issued an arrest warrant for him.
The three parties in the Czech Republic’s ruling center-left coalition dominated the election for the country’s regions and are ahead in the first round of voting for Parliament’s upper house, according to results released Saturday by the Czech Statistics Office. With votes from almost 100 percent of ballot stations counted, the ANO (YES) movement led by Finance Minister Andrej Babis was a clear winner, claiming nine of the 13 regions contested in the two-day vote Friday and Saturday. Of the other two members of the ruling coalition, the leftist Social Democrats of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who used to dominate the regions, won only two, while the Christian Democrats took one. The final region saw a victory by a group of local mayors.
The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Jiři Dienstbier is pushing for an amendment to the law which would give non-EU foreigners with long-term residence in the Czech Republic the right to vote, first on the local level and later also in general elections. The minister argues that once the authorities have granted a person long-term residence they should also grant them the right to co-decide about who runs the city or country that has become their second home. The laws that govern the process of granting non-EU foreigners permanent residence or citizenship in the Czech Republic are, according to the human rights’ minister, one of the toughest in the EU. People can only file for permanent residence after having resided in the country for 5 years (10 years for citizenship applications) and it is entirely up to the Czech authorities whether their request will be granted. Minister Dienstbier says that their newly acquired status should go hand-in hand with the right to vote.
Foreigners from the countries outside the EU and with a long-term stay in the Czech Republic may be perhaps granted the right to vote in local elections, Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD) told CTK Friday. Immigrants’ participation in the decision-making process in their place of residence would contribute to their integration, Dienstbier said. He said he wanted to open a debate on the voting right to immigrants and amendments to election laws. At the end of last year, some 441,500 foreigners had a legal stay in the Czech Republic, 238,900 of whom a permanent one.
Czech Republic: How the Czech Social Democrats were derailed by a billionaire populist | Policy Network
The Czech experience is a reminder to social democrats that they need to think seriously about the deep undercurrents of anti-political anger bubbling up in European electorates – as well as distributional conflicts and coalitions. On 26 October after two terms in opposition the Social Democrats (ČSSD) emerged as the largest party in early elections in the Czech Republic with the near certainty of the forming the next government. Their political opponents on centre-right whose tottering three-year coalition government finally collapsed amid personal and political scandal in June were routed. The once dominant Civic Democrats (ODS) founded in 1991 by Václav Klaus to bring British-style Thatcherite conservativism to post-communist transformation, was cut down to minor party status with mere 7 per cent of the vote. Its one time partner in government, TOP09, which had championed fiscal austerity slipped to 11 per cent. The Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) – staged a modest recovery edging back into parliament with 6 per cent support, but remained – as they had always been in the Czech lands – a niche party. ‘Heads Up!’, the newly formed conservative eurosceptic bloc endorsed by former president Václav Klaus, scraped a humiliating 0.42 per cent.
Czech party politics used to be boring. The 2013 parliamentary election, however, highlights the transformation of the party system, the arrival of new entrants and the woes faced by the long-established parties. The Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) won the election, but the margin of victory was slender. When the centre-right government under Prime Minister Petr Necas collapsed in a scandal involving sex, lies and spies in June, CSSD looked on course to win 30 percent of the vote. The only question seemed to be whether they would strike a deal with the Communists or not. The party, however, managed just 20.45 percent in October’s election, throwing the party into turmoil. Tensions between the different wings of the party re-emerged and within hours the knives were out for party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. The explanation for the failure of CSSD may lie with Sobotka’s lack of charisma and a lackluster campaign full of rather bland promises such a “well-functioning state”, but it is worth recalling that the party garnered almost the same level of support it got in the previous election in 2010. The key to CSSD’s weakness lies in the inability to integrate the forces of the left in the way that Robert Fico has managed in Slovakia.
The Social Democrats have won a narrow victory in early parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, but the composition of the next government is likely to depend on a billionaire who entered politics only two years ago. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) had enjoyed a commanding, albeit narrowing, lead for most of the two-month election campaign. However, its lead, once over 12 percentage points, shrank rapidly in the final days before yesterday’s and today’s vote, and its final tally, 20.5%, gave it just three more seats than the party of Andrej Babiš, a controversial industrialist and – since this spring – a media magnate. Babiš’s party, ANO 2011-Akce nespokojených občanů (Yes 2011 – Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), won 18.7% of the votes and 47 of the 200 seats in parliament. ANO took votes from all parties and its support was evenly spread across the population. While Babiš succeeded in recruiting a range of celebrities, polls suggest that the party’s late surge dates to a weekend blitz of interviews on television.