High prices for electricity, gasoline and food, the biggest price hikes since the 1990s, are impacting this year’s local and Senate elections. Opposition leaders Andrej Babiš of his ANO and Tomio Okamura of his SPD accused the government of not helping the people well enough and urged voters to make this known by voting for the government coalition. He sees the election as a referendum of dissatisfaction with his ODS’s Petr Fiala government.

You don’t have to go far for examples. The government’s decision to introduce a 30-crown fee for hospitals was used by the opposition ČSSD before the 2008 local elections and was hit hard afterwards. An orange tsunami swept over the Czech Republic, and the Social Democrats won in all the areas filled with party colors on the post-election map. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s ODS failed even where it believed itself. Moreover, in the Senate elections he was only able to defend three seats.

Four years later, people expressed their dissatisfaction with the cabinet of ODS leader Petr Nechas and voted for the Social Democrats and Communists in local elections.

Opposition parties are making similar progress this year. “Citizens who are dissatisfied with this government have an opportunity to accept the election as a referendum,” declares ANO Chairman Andrei Babis. Even his fellow party members repeat the word referendum. They accuse the government of not doing enough to support people and businesses at a time when prices are rising rapidly.

In the elections held this Friday and Saturday, opposition parties have recommended not electing representatives of ODS, TOP 09, KDU-ČSL, Pirátů and STAN to the City Council or Senate. “Let the government know that you don’t want it to end immediately,” Babis said.

Prime Minister Fiala and other government politicians have advised against the national dimension of the election and to focus on the quality of local government candidates. But at the same time, they are taking steps to reassure the public. They have even been accused of populism as their aid to the energy crisis has increased.

“In such a complicated situation, he would have expected help and constructive criticism from the opposition. We want to change,” Fiala objected. According to him, the Cabinet is ensuring sufficient gas, freeing the Czech Republic from its dependence on Russia, keeping energy prices in check and helping people in difficult social situations.

Babis, on the other hand, spoke mostly about the government in his campaigns and often did not give local ANO candidates space in meetings. He delivered the speech himself. Even when a potential mayor was standing next to him. It’s clear from his statement that he believes in himself and expects even greater success in 2018. At the time, ANO dominated in 19 of the 30 largest cities, but lost the lead in several cities simply because the competition was united.

Lubomir Kopechek, a political scientist at Masaryk University and the SYRI National Institute, believes that Babis’ movement’s comparison to the referendum that escalated the campaign in the finale is exaggerated. “He may succeed in reducing cohesion within government coalitions. It will only lead to several days of more intense discussions,” he said. he says.

Nor does he expect this rhetoric to help Babish win votes from disgruntled people who have not yet voted for him. According to him, they will stay at home. “The biggest risk for the ruling party is that voters won’t come to vote at all. At this point, I don’t see any reason to vote again for a party that can’t solve things like the energy crisis,” estimates Kopecek. .

Let it be a YES government referendum, says Fiala

“A referendum on a government is basically stupid. But if the opposition wants it, I don’t care. Let them do it.” About the extremist-backed populist government of Andrei Babis that has led our country into big trouble,” he continued, adding that the Czech Republic under Babis will become the fastest in the European Union in 2021. .

Failure to do so can cause problems for large parties. Municipal politicians also endorse party leaders based on how they are doing in their municipalities and cities.

The Citizens Democratic Party defends the mayoral office in three regional cities: Brno, Hradec Kralove and Pilsen. They are also one of Prague’s favorites who will return to leadership from the opposition. They also want to replace his Ostrava mayor for ANOTomáš Macura. In the last local elections in 2018, they also won Mladá Boleslav, Jablonec nad Nisou and Teplice.

According to Kopecek, even a significant increase in votes does not mean that the party has succeeded. Four years ago in Prague, the ODS won, but was bypassed by the next-ranked party when it came to forming a coalition. The same applies to the ANO movement, which won victories in many large cities such as Brno, but ended in the opposite way. may get fewer votes, but on the other hand, they may be more adept at negotiating than politicians with more votes,” warns the political scientist.

To bring Babis closer to the premiership

If voters support the ANO movement by gathering a large number of votes in the city council elections, it will strengthen Babis’ position by the next parliamentary elections. Either on the usual date of 2025 or earlier. Opposition parties ANO and SPD are striving for these. In early September the ANO provoked a vote of no confidence in the government. That was when it became clear that the head of the new private intelligence agency, Petr Mleinek, had met with Michal Redl, the businessman accused in the Dosimeter case, and the Minister of the Interior. , his Vít Rakušan of STAN Mlejnek did not want to resign. The government stalled the vote, after which Babis admitted that he wanted to return to the prime ministership.

“I’ve ruled that possibility out in the past. Given what’s happening in our country, which is headed by clearly the worst government since November 1989, I wouldn’t rule it out,” an interview with MF Dnes this week. Moreover, the former prime minister and finance minister still hasn’t ruled out running for president next January.

If the ruling party fails in elections, there can be personnel changes in the Cabinet, which the prime minister often resorts to in such situations. Petr Fiala may replace some ministers or say goodbye to the coalition. According to Aktuálně.cz sources, the ODS is considering whether to continue working with the pirates. They have only four members of parliament, and even without them the government would have a majority in the House. So far, no one at ODS wants to publicly comment on behind-the-scenes information.

Photo: Jizzy Klopacek

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