The Rapidly Evolving Czech Politics

In 2010, Czech voters sent the Christian Democrats packing. For the first time in post-Revolution politics, the party failed to gain seats in the House of Deputies. A debate rages within its ranks over the return path to relevance. Many members claim it’s all in the name.

The party’s full name, Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL), is rarely used in its full, hyphenated glory. “Lidovci” frequently serves a moniker for the mouthful. In an interview with Právo (link in Czech), KDU-ČSL chairman Pavel Bělobrádek said that a name change is under consideration.

Some members object to the continued presence of “Czechoslovak” in the title, nearly 20-years after the Velvet Divorce. Others, insist “Christian” has no place in the party name, citing the implications in one of the world’s least religious countries. Bělobrádek noted that only one in three supporters is a practicing Catholic.

Given that we are not just supported by Christians, we wondered if this wasn’t an anachronism.
-Lucie Kmentová, of the progressive “Yellow” wing of KDU-ČSL

At least eight new names have been proposed, according to the chairman. The party will address the issue when it convenes in December. “People’s Party”, its pre-Revolution title, is emerging as a favorite. It was scrapped largely to distance the group from its role as a puppet party and member of the “National Front”: the coalition that governed in the aftermath of World War II and saw the Communists seize control.

Primed for a Comeback?
In 2010, voters rejected the political establishment. The emergence of new parties TOP 09 and Public Affairs dealt KDU-ČSL a death blow into obscurity. The Christian Democrats hope to play the role of Lazarus in the next legislative elections.

Their fall from grace stemmed from a plunge in preference in the country’s Bohemian regions, where they saw their vote tallies halved versus the 2006 contest.

The party has always been more popular in rural areas and small towns in Moravia, the country’s eastern region. But its support became more regionally confined than ever as conservatives in Prague and surrounding areas turned out for younger parties in higher numbers. Though they lost some ground among their traditional power base, the Christian Democrats fared far more respectably in the east. The map below shows KDU-ČSL’s support by region in the 2010 contest:

For a return to Parliament, KDU-ČSL must bolster its Bohemian support. In Prague and the Central Bohemian Region that encapsulates it, the Christian Democrats averaged a mere 2.1% of the vote. Those two regions alone comprise nearly a quarter of the country’s population.

But as disgust with the ruling coalition continues to rise, the party appears to be improving its chances of once again taking its seat at the table. For the fifth straight month, it’s polling above the threshold for representation in the Chamber of Deputies

This party-to-be-named-later may play a decisive role when the next government is formed.