PRAGUE (Jun. 22)
A far-right party has failed to capture enough votes to enter the Czech Parliament.
The Republican Party, known for its anti-Gypsy and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and for opposition to the Czech Republic’s joining NATO, polled only 3.9 percent during parliamentary elections this week. Political parties must claim at least 5 percent of the popular vote in order to be seated.
In the outgoing Parliament, Republicans held 18 seats out of 200, having won just over eight percent in the 1996 elections.
The failure of the Republicans to be seated in the Parliament was “the biggest news of the election,” said Jiri Pehe, a senior political adviser to Czech President Vaclav Havel.
“The most positive result of the election is that voters, although dissatisfied and distrustful of politicians, rejected extremism,” said Pehe, who is Jewish.
The main reason voters turned away from the Republicans was that “they have exhausted their rhetoric,” said Pehe. “Their billboards were very simplistic; they abandoned any attempt to have a comprehensive program and just relied on their hard-core voters.”
Pehe added that mainstream parties had successfully appropriated some of the Republican Party’s themes.
“Other parties adopted their anti-crime rhetoric, so people voted for parties that had a chance to actually implement those programs,” he said.
Tomas Kraus, executive secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic, said the election results show that anti-Semitic rhetoric was “useless” to the Republicans.
“It didn’t help them, and maybe it even hurt them,” said Kraus.
He pointed out that the federation has sued the newspaper Republika, which is closely associated with the Republican Party, for spreading hatred against Jews.
About 6,000 Jews are estimated to live in the Czech Republic.
Other than the failure of the Republicans to get into Parliament, the election results were predictable. The left-of-center Social Democrats won the largest number of seats, 74, but they must form a coalition government.
The Civic Democratic Party of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus won 63 seats, the Communists 24 and the Christian Democrats 20.
Kraus said the Jewish community would be equally happy with any government that is formed and would approach any new government with the same demand: Complete the restitution of formerly Jewish properties.
The logic of coalition-building gives him reason to be hopeful.
The centrist Christian Democrats, among the country’s strongest supporters of restitution of Jewish property, are almost certain to be in the next government.