PRINCE KARL VII, current head of the House of Schwarzenberg and sometime foreign minister of the Czech Republic, recently combined with other political colleagues to form a new party in time for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Bohemia. A number of supporters of the Christian & Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL) were disappointed with the selection of the left-leaning Cyril Svoboda as party chairman, and have formed a new conservative group, Tradice Odpovědnost Prosperita 09 or “Tradition Responsibility Prosperity ’09″.
Prince Karl — or Karel Schwarzenberg as he is known for electoral purposes — suggests that Bohemian voters have grown disenchanted with the current choice of political parties on offer. “The results of the last elections – the worst were the election to the European Parliament, but even the national elections – show that the degree of support for political parties by Czech citizens is going steadily down,” the Prince told Radio Prague.
“People are evidently not content with the parties that are offered to them, and they are more and more fed up. I read this in the e-mails I get and letters, and hear it in pubs and wherever. And as we think that there is still a lot of work to be done in our country, we decided to offer at least some alternative. That’s it.”
Schwarzenberg has gained popularity for straight-talking; the Prince insists Czechs will have to tighten their belts to see themselves through the current economic crisis and suggests they begin by cutting state funding for political parties in half. “For the bigger, long-established parties state payments are vital to their survival,” Radio Prague notes. “The Czech system of political financing makes annual payments to parties on the basis of every vote they get in elections to the lower house, Senate, regional and European elections as long as their total support is over a certain, low, percentage threshold.”
Prince Schwarzenberg has pointed out that TOP 09, which does not yet qualify for state aid, is transparently funded by individuals in contrast to the existing parties. “If you check on the internet, you will see our donors,” the Prince said. “We publish everybody with his full name so you can see everybody who has given us something. Thank God there are quite a lot of people in the Czech Republic who support us and give some amount of money. Not the big companies, but there are smaller entrepreneurs, it is private persons and some, I know, who are not so rich but have given what in their position is quite a lot of money.”
As many as 10% of voters may choose TOP 09 in the next election, and a strong showing by the party could tip the balance of power in favour of the right, as no single party is likely to win an outright majority. But the current hung parliament is having a difficult time determining when the election will actually take place.
Earlier in the year, an interim technocratic government was installed after Prime Minister Topolánek of the ODS was forced to resign after a vote of no confidence. The new administration was half nominated by the formerly ruling coalition and half nominated by the opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD). The parties had planned for an October vote, but a case challenging the electoral law was brought before the Constitutional Court, who nullified the chosen date. The parties then agreed to call for a general election in November, and the KDU-ČSL dissidents led by Schwarzenberg formed their new grouping expecting a short campaign.
Now the ČSSD have inexplicably announced they’ll vote against any move to dissolve parliament in time for November elections, and say they prefer to wait until June 2010 for a general election.