How people elect parliaments
Despite using a party list electoral system, Czech voters actually get at least some say on which individuals represent them in their parliament.
The Czechs will elect their national Poslanecka Snemovna (Chamber of Deputies) over two days this Friday and Saturday.
Like most European nations, their electoral system is one of party lists, where voters indicate their preferred party and each party is allocated a proportional share of the available parliamentary seats.
But unlike most of the world’s party list proportional representation systems, the Czechs get more of a say about which individuals take up the parliamentary seats.
In most party-PR systems, the parties state the listed order in which their candidates will be allocated the seats the party wins.
But the Czech system also allows the voters to indicate their support for up to four of the listed candidates within their chosen party. All these ‘preferences’ are then tallied, and any individual candidates who win at least 5% of their party’s preferences will be moved to the top of the lists, in order of their number of preferences won.
Voters cannot, however, share their preferences among candidates of more than one party.
Nor can any candidate get a parliamentary seat directly, but only through the medium of a party winning one or more seats.
The seat allocations are determined separately in each of Czechia’s 14 administrative regions, each of which forms a separate electoral district for the elections. The districts have various seat numbers ranging from 5 to 25, based on their populations.
However parties cannot win seats simply by having concentrated support in select electoral regions, as there is a 5% minimum threshold of the total number of nationwide votes for parties to be allotted any seats at all.
At the last Czech elections in 2013, seven parties met the 5% nationwide vote share threshold for seats, with the strongest – the centre-left Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) – only achieving 20% of the vote.
The current government has been a three-party coalition between the ČSSD, the populist centre-right ‘Yes 2011’ (ANO 2011) party founded by businessman Andrej Babiš, and the Christian Democratic Union party (KDU-ČSL).
Babiš was removed as Finance Minister earlier this year in a scandal over financial management, precipitating a crisis in the governing coalition.
Czech politics has been quite fragmented over the past decade, with new parties and alliances, including ‘populist’ parties, emerging and jostling for the very divided support of the electorate.
Opinion polls again suggest that around seven parties, and potentially more, will achieve the 5% national threshold. Support for the government-leading ČSSD party appears to be well down, with the ANO 2011 party leading the field now on around 30% of the vote.
(Cover image: The seat of the Czech Parliament, the Thun Palace in Malá Strana, Prague; image: panarmedian.net)
The election result was broadly as expected. Charles Richardson has a good report on it at Czechs swing rightwards (Crikey, 23 Oct)