Local elections in the Czech Republic: Babiš’ mobile home was not enough

The prime minister’s alliance suffered many defeats in the local elections. Babiš also falls short of his goals.

Two women tip a bin full of ballot papers onto a table

Everything has to be on the table: election workers in Hradec Kralove start counting Photo: David Tanecek/CTK/imago

PRAGUE taz | When the first projections appeared on Saturday afternoon, one thing above all could be heard from all corners of the political spectrum in the Czech Republic: relief. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, chairman of the mayor’s party STAN, who himself only recently made the leap from local politics to the government bench, summed up the atmosphere on the evening of the election: “The catastrophe did not happen,” he breathed a sigh of relief in public.

The five parties in the governing coalition in particular had feared that the crises of the past year, from Corona to the Ukraine war and rising energy prices up to your own corruption affairs and a seemingly perplexed cabinet could take revenge in these elections.

The opposition, which consists more or less of populists in the form of the one-man political enterprise ANO (ex-Prime Minister Andrej Babiš) and the Direct Democracy, or SPD for short (Tomio Okamura), had made an effort in the run-up to the local elections to unite them Kind of jazzing up a referendum on Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s government.

Despite all the prophecies of doom, its conservative citizens’ party ODS managed to recapture Prague: Together with their coalition partners at government level, the progressive TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats, they are well on course in the capital with a simple majority and want to win with the help of the pirates and the mayor’s party govern. “For Prague, such a coalition is the only possible solution. We need close cooperation with the government and parliament, so we would be happy if the coalition were guided by the government’s outline,” said Bohuslav Svoboda. The 78-year-old previously held the post of mayor of Prague between 2010 and 2013 and also represents his party in parliament.

The right-wing SPD is also celebrating successes

Cooperation with the ANO, which became the second strongest force in the capital, was described by Svoboda as “extremely unlikely”. The movement of ex-Prime Minister Babiš, who is currently facing the Prague City Court has to answer for allegations of fraud, meanwhile celebrates itself as the national election winner. In the regions, ANO won a majority in 8 out of 12 district towns.

However, compared to the local elections in 2018, ANO lost a few votes. And this despite the fact that Babiš has been touring the republic in his mobile home since the beginning of the year and conducting hybrid election campaigns under the slogan “It was better under Babiš”. Not only with a view to the local elections, but also to the presidential elections in January 2023.

Tomio Okamura, head of the Direct Democracy Party (SPD), which primarily aimed at protest voters, is also celebrating a triumph. For the first time, the SPD will have its representatives in all district towns of the country.

“Actually, everyone won,” commented the news portal Seznam.cz. the outcome of the election. First, because it could have been worse. On the other hand, because it has been shown that in many cities and communities, municipal issues were more decisive than the fears stirred up by the opposition parties.

Because the real election winners are the small independent candidates and lists that make local politics in most cities and communities. In the northern Bohemian town of Liberec (Reichenberg), an independently led coalition is likely to move into the town hall. In the South Moravian town of Pohořelice, on the other hand, former elite policeman Robert Šlachta achieved a surprising electoral success.

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