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Stable or not? Patterns of party system dynamics and the rise of the new political parties in the Czech Republic.


The Czech party system has been considered among the most stable in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, mainly due to the fact that the number; identity; and electoral support for relevant parties have remained comparatively constant. As such, it represented a remarkable exception in the post-communist context; that is, until the 2010 election of the Chamber of Deputies, which broke with the aforementioned trend (cf. Haughton et al. 2011, Sedo 2011). Not only did the support for the two largest parties decline to a historical low, but for the first time since its inception in 1919, the Christian and Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL) lost representation in the Chamber of Deputies (previously the National and Federal Assemblies, and the Czech National Council). Furthermore, two new political parties, TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV), entered the parliament. The electoral disappointment for the Green Party, which failed to cross the electoral threshold, was another discontinuity with the results of the 2006 election. The 2013 general election followed the path made by the previous electoral contest: the support of the once biggest parties dropped again and two new parties--the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens 2011 (ANO) and the Dawn of Direct Democracy crossed the electoral threshold, gaining together more than one quarter of votes. The main aim of this paper is to analyse the development trends in the Czech party system, using selected methods of assessing party system dynamics, and to point out some specifics of Czech party politics and answer the following research question: how and why has the Czech party system changed in recent years? It will do so in the wider context of the theoretical discussion about party system change and the endeavours to conceptualise it in order to describe the dynamics of the Czech party politics. Additionaly, reasons for the rise of new political parties will be discussed and apply in order to explain the recent changes of the party system in the Czech Republic.

The results show that the party system in the Czech Republic can be no longer considered as a stable party system since both the number and electoral support of political parties and level of openness of the party system have changed dramatically in recent years. Moreover, these changes can be accounted for the combination of political and economic crises that struck the Czech Republic in recent years.

Volatility and party system institutionalization: different dimensions of party system stability

Issues of party system stability and dynamics have firmly established themselves in the study of party politics over recent decades. Party system stability is often thought to indicate the quality or consolidation of democracy (e.g. Jones 2012). Scholarly interest in party systems stability has also increased in connection with the emergence of new democracies (e.g. Jiglau & Gherghina 2011), particularly the transitions and transformations of Central and Eastern European political regimes during the 1990s. A few rare exceptions aside, the post-communist party systems have become bywords for instability, especially so when compared with their Western European counterparts.

When studying party system dynamics, the crucial question of the subject of study arises. Does the party system stability stem from a change of electoral support of individual political parties (i.e. from the level of volatility, see below) or should it be seen as an expression of dynamics of political parties' interactions? To make it more confusing, several scholars use political parties stability and party system stability interchangably or claim that party system stability is dependent on stability of individual political parties (Meleshevich, 2007). Consequently, a complex analysis of dynamics of party politics in a particular country demands a researcher to be focused on the two more or less separate dimensions: (1) political parties as individual actors and (2) character of interactions among them.

The first dimension has been well covered by a bunch quantitave studies using various ways of measurement of number of political parties and changes of their electoral support by studying volatility as the most widely applied approach. The overall level of volatility expresses the aggregated level of change of electoral support of political parties in a completion in the two subsequent elections and results from the three following sources: 1) change in electoral support due to the preferences of voters participating in both subsequent elections, 2) change in electorate composition (loss of electorate, new voters, changes in voter turnout), and 3) change in the supply of political parties standing for the election (some parties might not stand; new parties might enter the competition; electoral coalitions could appear or transform themselves--Birch 2003: 121). The chief problem connected with studying volatility is that it is often incorrectly interpreted as indicating individual shifts in the electorate, even though the data has been aggregated to the overall level of support for individual political parties (e.g. Birch 2003, Tavits 2005). Therefore, volatility is 'merely' the sum of changes in electoral support for political parties between two subsequent elections, and cannot be interpreted as indicating change in the electoral behaviour of individual voters, even though statistical tests exist that point out the closeness of aggregated and individual change of electoral behaviour (e.g. Bartolini, Mair 1990). The basic calculation of volatility was set by Mogens Pedersen (1979) and modified by others who tried to reflect different sources of volatility (for more details see below).

Undoubtedly, the change of electoral support of individual political parties is an important feature of dynamics of party politics. On the other hand, stable electoral support of political parties does not tell us much about stability of interactions among them. Therefore, assessing dynamics of a party system solely on volatility would mean to miss the more important aspect of functioning of a party system. As Peter Mair put it, the core feature of a party system stability lies in predictability of interactions among political parties in the system (Mair 2001, see also Casal Bertoa 2014). In recent years, party system stability has been increasingly equaled with the concept of party system institutionalization (PSI) which dates back to the seminal work by Mainwaring and Scully (1995). We stick to the definition of PSI as ,,the process by which the patterns of interaction among political parties become routine, predictable, and stable over time" (Mair 2001, Bakke, Sitter 2005, see also Casal Bertoa 2014). PSI thus leaves the perspective of electoral performance of individual political parties and moves to the systemic and interactive aspect of party system dynamics.

In addition to research on volatility, several tools for measuring fragmentation of party systems have been developed. A prominent position within this type of research was captured by so-called number of effective parties. The idea behind this measure is to count parties and, at the same time, to weight the count by their relative strength. The relative strength refers to their vote share ("effective number of electoral parties") or seat share in the parliament ("effective number of parliamentary parties"). The number of parties equals the effective number of parties only when all parties have equal strength. In any other case, the effective number of parties is lower than the actual number of parties (Laakso, Taagepera 1979).

Volatility, PSI and measures of fragmentation of party systems will be used to analyse the development of party dynamics of party politics in the Czech Republic as they are able to capture different dimensions of its stability and change.

Data and methods

In order to answer the research question defined in the introduction of the article, we will analyze the two key aspects which are decisive for assessing the party system dynamics: (1) the change of electoral support of political parties; (2) the interactions among the parties referring to the level of institutionalization of the Czech party system.

To quantitatively measure the changes of the electoral support of political parties, we count the level of volatility by using the index constructed by Mogens Pedersen in his seminal work (Pedersen 1979). The formula of the Pedersen Index is as follows:

Volatility = [[summation].sup.n.sub.i = 1][absolute value of [] - [p.sub.i(t + 1)]]/2

where n is the number of parties, and p represents the percentage of votes received by that party in time periods t and t + 1.

In addition to measurement of the overall level of volatility, it will be useful to identify the changes cause by the entrance of new political parties and by exit of the old ones. The different dynamics of the results achieved by established and new political parties have been emphasised by Mainwaring, Gervasoni and Espana-Najera (2010), who have defined within-system and extra-system volatility. The analysis of the different types of volatility should express the different dynamics which attach to the frequent successes of new or young parties, as opposed to that occurring when electoral support merely shifts between the established actors (Mainwaring et al. 2010: 3). Powell and Tucker (2013) have likewise distinguished two types of volatility. Whereas Type B volatility refers, in their interpretation, to shifts of electorates between existing political parties, (3) Type A volatility corresponds to the electoral gains of new political parties, or to the decline of electoral success of those parties which had previously gained parliamentary representation but are not standing for the present election. According to Powell and Tucker, the Type A volatility better reflects party system instability, and is an extremely important indicator, especially in post-communist party systems (Powell, Tucker 2013: 6-7).

The formula for so-called Type A volatility is as follows (Powell, Tucker 2013: 6-7):

Type A Volatility = [absolute value of ([[summation].sup.n.sub.o = 1][p.sub.ot] + [[summation].sup.n.sub.w = 1][p.sub.w(t + 1)]]/2

where o is old disappearing parties that contested only the election at time t, and w is new parties that only contested the election at time t + 1. Moreover, the net impact of new parties on the stability of the party system will be measured by the electoral support of genuinely new political parties, defined in accordance with Sikk's approach. Sikk defined the genuinely new parties as those 'that are not successors to any previous parliamentary parties, have a novel name and structure, and do not have any important figures from past democratic politics among their major members' (Sikk 2005: 399). Parties that involve prime ministers or other government or parliament members are thus excluded from consideration as new parties. Sikk's definition is somewhat softened by the inclusion of parties which have been extra-parliamentary for more than one electoral term (Sikk 2005: 399).

The overall level of fragmentation of the party system will be assessed by counting the effective number of parliamentary parties in accordance with the classic formula suggested by Laakso and Taagepera (1979): N = 1/[summation][p.sub.i.sup.2], where [p.sub.i] refers to a seat share of the political party i. The results will show us the development and changes of the Czech party system in terms of concentration and fragmentation respectively.

Several measurements of PSI have been developed in recent years. Nevertheless, the aim of the paper is not to summarize this discussion (for this purpose see Mair 2007, Casal Bertoa, Enyedi 2014). We will stick to the most recent measurement developed by Casal Bertoa and Enyedi (2014). Following earlier effort to conceptualize PSI (Mair, 1997, Mair 2007) Casal Bertoa and Enyedi define PSI in term of openness and/or closure of a party system. They proposed to measure three components of PSI as continuous variables. The three components are as follows: alternation in government, government formulae and access to goverment. The ways of measurement are described in details in Table 1.

All the indicators are based on government participation measured by share (or the change of share) of portfolios held by political parties. The biggest advantage of the new indicators lie in the contiuousness of measurement and ability to capture different aspects of PSI. The new way of measurement is also reflective to specifics but also to long-term development of individual party systems and is suitable for comparative purposes.

The quantitative measures and qualitative assessment of the stability of the Czech party system will include the period 1990-2013 (for 1990 and 1992 the Czech National Council election results are used) with exception of measurement of PSI when only the period between 1996-2013, i.e. starting from the election which followed the first election after the breakup of the Civic Forum, will be taken into consideration.

A Brief Description of the Czech Party System

As already indicated in the introduction, the Czech party system has been usually described as one of the most stable in Central and Eastern Europe. A brief description of this system will now be provided, followed by an overview of selected studies which so far have analysed its stability--especially in terms of its volatility--as well as the position assumed by new political parties.

The founding election in 1990 was won, with almost 50% of the vote, by the Civic Forum (OF) (4)--a broad political entity which originated shortly after the events of 17 November 1989, and very quickly took on the role of initiator and chief agent in the Czech/Czechoslovak (5) transition to democracy (Pseja 2004a, Suk 2009). The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, continuing to stand on ideologically unreformed positions, placed second in the election, with a considerably lower level of electoral support. In subsequent years, the party's support has regularly exceeded 10% of the vote. Only in 2002 did the Communists approach a high of 20% of the vote (see Fiala and Mares 1999, Fiala and Mares 2005a).

Another important party was the Christian and Democratic Union (KDU), which had already obtained parliamentary representation in 1990. KDU was a coalition of several primarily Christian Democratic parties, led by the Czechoslovak People's Party, dating as far back as 1919. In later years, the Christian Democrats became a stable component of the party system under the name Christian and Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-CSL), with support oscillating around 7% of the vote (Fiala and Suchy 2005).

The breakup of the Civic Forum in the spring of 1991 was an important point in the dynamic development of the Czech party system. It led to the rise of the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and social liberal Civic Movement. While the Civic Movement failed at the polls in 1992, ODS went on to become the strongest political force on the right over the next twenty years, with voter support averaging above 25% (Pseja 2004a, Pseja 2004b). Harsh criticism of the economic transformation process directed by ODS served as a major factor in the rise of the Czechoslovak (later Czech) Social Democratic Party (CSSD). The party made use of a vacuum of sorts on the left of the political spectrum, and, after two not very successful electoral performances in 1990 and 1992, became the strongest opposition party under the leadership of Milos Zeman, acquiring, in 1996, more than four times (!) the vote that it had previously received. ODS and CSSD gradually assumed the positions of the two major poles of the party system, gaining between them more than 50% of the vote (in 2006, more than 67% of all valid votes cast (Kopecek and Pseja 2008)). These four political parties (CSSD, KDU-CSL, KSCM and ODS) used to be accompanied by rather small right-centre formations such as the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), Freedom Union (US), or the Green Party (Pseja Mares, 2005, Dimun, Hamersky, 1999, Mares, 1998, Fiala and Mares, 2005 b, Kopecek, 2010, Pecinka, 2005). Specific to the Czech political party system of the first half of the 1990s were the relative electoral successes enjoyed by the radical-right Association for the Republic-Republican Party of Czechoslovakia (SPR-RSC). The results of the 2010 and 2013 parliamentary election brought success of the four new political parties: liberal-conservative TOP 09 and anti-establishment Public Affairs (VV), ANO 2011 and Tomio Okamura's Dawn of Direct Democracy (Havlik, in print).

A glance at the seat share of individual parties (Table 2) suggests that the party system was relatively stable until the 2010 election, at least as far as the number and identity of actors are concerned. Since 1996, the first election in the independent Czech Republic, three parties have repeatedly achieved parliamentary representation; and, if we were to exclude the 2010 and 2013 elections, whose results deviated from the rest, we would see four stable parliamentary parties (the fourth would be KDU-CSL, which, in 2002, stood as part of the Coalition). The positions of the two major poles in the system have been gradually assumed by ODS and CSSD. These have been complemented by minor poles: KSCM and KDU-CSL (cf. Strmiska 1998). This basic four party configuration has been repeatedly complemented by smaller right-wing parties (ODA and US); the Greens; and, during the 1990s, SPR-RSC.

Analysis of Stability of the Czech Party System: two Waves of Openness

Let us first look at the level of volatility and support for the new parties which can provide us with a more detailed view on stability of electoral support of the parties in the system and capture the trends in the development and changes of electoral fortune of the established parties and their challengers.

As seen in the Figure 1, the trends capturing the changes in party system stability and electoral gains of new parties are similar and clear. Following the initial period of high volatility (see the difference between the 1990 and 1992 elections) caused by acceleration in dynamics during the formative phase of the Czech party system, total volatility stabilised at around 20%. (During the formative phase, the Civic Forum disintegrated; new parties appeared, and some were successful electorally; and existing parties regrouped into various electoral coalitions whose subsequent existence was only ephemeral). The 2010 and 2013 elections brought a significant change, however, with total volatility climbing above 35%, caused by substantial increase of support of new political parties (Hanley 2011, Sedo 2011). Specifically, this concerned Public Affairs; the left-centre Citizens' Rights Party-Zemanites, and the nationalist populist Sovereignty party in 2010 and ANO and the Dawn in 2013. Were we to include TOP 09 among new parties (which makes sense to some extent), the total electoral gains of new entrants in 2010 would reach almost 40%. This also demonstrates that, despite the relative stability of the parliamentary parties (we have already mentioned the long-term presence of CSSD, ODS, KSCM, and KDU-CSL in the parliament), the electoral gains of the new parties contribute about half of the total volatility (with the exception of the year 2006).

After the initial rise of number of effective parties in parliament in 1992 (mainly as a result of the end of the Civic Forum and success of many new political parties), Czech party system became stabilized with 3.5 effective parties on average. However, the increase of volatility in 2010 and 2013 was accompanied by growing fragmentation of the party system. As a result of the rise of the new parties and loss of support of the established ones, the number of effective parties rose up to 5.5. In other words, the new parties neither replaced the old parties, nor the old parties were capable to regain their support in 2013 and the Czech party system became even more fragmented than it had been in 1992.

The years 2010 and 2013 were extraordinary in terms of all of the quantitative indicators used in this study, with total volatility and gains of new parties reaching the highest levels since 1992, regardless of the method of calculation used. As the data shows, the Czech party politics entered its new era characterized by electoral success of new political parties and drop of support of the established actors, both related to the growing dissatisfaction with political situation.

In addition to the level of volatility, we calculated the level of the three components of party system institutionalization defined above. Table 3 shows both an overview of governments in the Czech Republic and calculation of indicators of party sytem institutionalization. Only elections after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia were included. Technocratic cabinets of Tosovsky, Fischer and Rusnok (Hlousek, Kopecek 2014) and the first cabinet of Topolanek, which did not get the confidence of the Parliament, were excluded from analysis. Table 3 provides us with rather mixed results.

After the initial phase of high level of PSI related to right-centre cabinets of Vaclav Klaus, the formation of minority social democratic government in 1998 meant that the overall level of PSI dropped significantly since a new formula was introduced. This was followed by subsequent rise of PSI between 2002-2006 when the party system can be charaterized by a high level of closure. This period is related to intensified bipolarization of party competition driven by rivalry of CSSD and ODS. On the other hand, the pariah-status of KSCM meant only partial government alteration, with KDU-CSL participating in both right-centre and left-centre cabinets.

The 2010 election results and the rise of the new parties (and their subsequent inclusion into the government) are reflected in the lower level of PSI components or the higher level of party system openness rexpectively. The electoral success of the new parties and the significant drop of the support of the established parties in 2013 did not lead to the drop of the level of all of the PSI components since the new government, which completely altered the old centre-right cabinet, was predominantly formed by the old parties that has already governed together and the cabinet formula cannot be described as completely new and--in line with the construction of PSI indicators--unpredictable. On the hand, a new political party ANO 2011 formed an important part of the new coalition which refers to relative openness of the Czech party system (similarly to the situation after the 2010 election). In sum, the Czech party system has experienced two periods of relative openness, stemming from two different sources. The first period dates back to the late 90s and first years of the Millenium and is related to the entrance of CSSD to the government in 1998 and subsequently to only a partial government alteration after the 2002 and 2006 elections respectively. This openness was linked to two important aspects of the Czech party system. The first one is the specific position of some party actors, namely the pariah status of KSCM which was already mentioned above and then "unfriendly" relationship between ODS and US which made a coalition of these two ideologically close parties impossible and finally led to the minority government of CSSD based on cooperation with ODS (Roberts, 2003) with sharp contrast with pre-election statements of the two rivals. Similarly, participation of US in the left-centre coalition after the 2002 election could not be easily predicted taking into consideration the liberal economic programme of US. Moreover, KDU-CSL's changes in preferences of coalition partners did not contribute to predictability of interactions among political parties.

The second period of unstability/openness of the party system started with the 2010 election and continued after the 2013 elections and is related to the rise of the new parties in particular. Furthermore, the significant drop of the electoral support of the once biggest parties brought a change in party system configuration formerly constructed around the two major poles a rivals in terms of competition between the right and the left (whereas in 2006 CSSD and ODS got over two thirds of votes, it was only 42% in 2010 and 28% in 2013). All the same, the newly emerged parties have not taken the role of a new major pole for two reasons. First, their electoral support has not simply been big enough. Second, with exception of TOP 09, it is very difficult to characterize them in terms of socio-economic cleavage which has dominated the party competition in the Czech Republic (Hlousek, Kopecek 2008, Casal Bertoa 2014). A closer look at geographic patterns of electoral support (Havlik, Voda 2014) reveals no correlation with sociodemographic characteristic which makes the new parties (again with exception of TOP 09) significantly different from the established actors.

The question is what is the explanation behind the rise of the new parties. Explaining the emergence and success of new political parties, Lucardie (2000) mentions sufficient mobilization of resources and political opportunity structures as the key factors that determine the electoral fortune of newcomers. There are various types of resources necessary for founding and running a political party from ideology, members to money. As Lucardie put it, "a combination of sufficient members, publicity and funds seems a necessary (if not a sufficient) condition for success." (Lucardie 2000: 179). On the other hand, with gradual process of dealignment, growing role of the (new) media and political marketing, parties on the grounds do not seem to be as important as it used to be (Katz, Mair 1995, van Biezen 2012). Still, a persuasive political platform, the personality of the leader, and money, all play a crucial role for viability of a political party. Although the concept of political opportunity structures (POS) was developed in studies about social movements (Tarrow 1998), it can also be useful for analysis of electoral breakthrough of political parties (Kitschelt 1988, Muller-Rommel 1993, Rydgren 2006). POS were defined as "consistent--but not necessarily formal, permanent or national resources that are external in relation to the parties or social movements under study" (Rydgren 2006: 14). POS include formal institutions such as electoral system or political parties regulation, societal changes (dealignment, realignment), issues salience or structure of party competition (e.g. convergence in political space). Given the more or less unchanged institutional setting (law regulating political parties, electoral system, public funding of political parties), the formal institutions will be ommited in the following text.

The first step which is necessary to explain the emergence and electoral success of new political parties in the Czech Republic, is a description of parties's resources including funds, organizational structure, leadership and political platform. TOP 09 was founded in June 2009 and its name consists of the initials of the words "Tradition, responsibility, prosperity." The emergence of the party was a result of a split within KDU-CSL: a group of right-centre leaning MPs led by Miroslav Kalousek was defeated by left-centre oriented wing at a party conference and decided to leave the party and to form a new party proclaimed itself to be conservative but sticking to liberal economic principles. The greatest personal asset came with the arrival of Karel Schwarzenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet formed after the 2006 election, who was elected the chairman of the party. Electoral campaign of the party before the 2010 election was highly personalised and extensively used Schwarzenberg's public popularity (Matuskova 2010). Another factor importa nt for the electoral success of the party was its electoral alliance with Mayors and Independents, a political party of successful local politicians (Spac, 2013). Alongside with the fact that number of former KDU-CSL local branches joined TOP 09, collaboration with Mayors and Independents created a personal basis for the party candidacy in 2010. With a clear liberal-conservative ideological profile, TOP 09 naturally became a rival of ODS in the right-centre part of political space. Using a typology of new parties developed by Lucardie (2000), TOP 09 can be classified as a purifier which "seek to articulate existing party traditions in more principled and authentic forms" (Hanley 2012). TOP 09 used skillfully the economic crisis which struck the Czech Republic and called for austerity economic measures with reference to Greek experience. "Purifying" position of the party was confirmed by specific patterns of its electoral support and by characteristics of its electorate. Regional distribution of support of TOP 09 was very similar to ODS support in previous years (Havlik, Voda 2014) and despite several differences (voters of TOP 09 were younger) its electorate demography resembles characteristics of ODS voters (Linek et al. 2011).

VV was established in 2001, as a civic association in Prague focused on issues concerning local city politics. In June 2009, the party announced that it would compete in the early election of the Chamber of Deputies with Radek John, a popular former writer and investigative journalist, as leader of the party's election campaign. John's election increases party credibility since the chairman of the party became the most trustworthy politicians in opinions shortly before his election (Kunstat 2010). The party's election campaign was based on a combination of a strong anti-establishment appeal, calls for more direct democracy (including within the VV party itself), and anti-corruption slogans, but without targeting any particular social group (Matuskova 2010, Eibl 2010) and clear ideological profile. Its main election slogan called for "The end of the political dinosaurs", i.e. "corrupted and incompetent" politicians of the established parties. VV appeals resonated with political crisis the Czech Republic which can be seen as the most important opportunity structure for the rise of political parties using anti-establishment appeals. The core element of this crisis was a long decline in satisfaction with politics and political institutions that began more than a year (Linek, 2010) before any economic decline, and indeed in a time of economic prosperity. In relation to the timing of the rise of the populist parties, it is necessary to emphasize a sharp decline of the political trust in the period after the 2006 general election which was related to the complicated process of government formation followed by weakness and instability of the government, and extensive (and often well-founded) allegations of corruption (Havlik 2011). While in previous years public satisfaction with the political situation and trust in political institutions increased after elections (Linek 2010), (6) in 2006, the immediate reaction after the elections led to record lows in both indicators and did not return to higher number before the 2010 election. The weak position of the government vis-a-vis the Chamber of Deputies was supplemented by friction among the coalition parties, which led to the fall of the government in spring 2009 (Havlik, 2011), contributing significantly to the crisis of trust in political institutions and in politics in general. The political parties in the Chamber agreed to the formation of a caretaker government composed of non-partisans (but nominated by CSSD, ODS and SZ), as well as announcing early elections (Hlousek, Kopecek 2014). However, due to the alleged unconstitutionality of the move, (7) the Czech Constitutional Court overruled the Chamber's call for early elections. This led to a de facto extension of the caretaker government's term (up to 13 months), which continued in spite of its low level of legitimacy and no clear support in the Chamber of Deputies (Balik 2011). Therefore, it was the political crisis what can be considered the most important political opportunity structures for the electoral success of VV.

In November 2011, a billionaire of Slovak origin and the owner of the biggest agro-chemical company in the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, released a document entitled "Action of Dissatisfied Citizens," in which he criticized the existing situation in Czech politics and the politicians, calling on citizens to take part in an initiative towards "a more just society, and a functional state with the rule of law" (ANO 2011). The initiative became the basis for the ANO 2011 party. The discourse of the party combined a very strong anti-establishment appeal but differed to some extent from the discourse VV had applied before the 2010 election. The cornerstone of ANO's anti-establishment rhetoric was a contrast constructed between practices typical for running companies--symbolized by the successful businessman Andrej Babis--and a supposedly dysfunctional, spendthrift, and corruption-ridden state (run by the current set of politicians). Creating an efficient, private-sector style approach as the main solution for politics and public administration was reflected in the slogan "I will run the state like a business," which ANO took into the election campaign. The election slogan, "We're not like the politicians--we work!" also clearly illustrates the dichotomy constructed in the ANO discourse between the "incompetent" politicians of the established parties and the representatives of ANO (Babis in particular), successful in "real" life. A factor which significantly contributed to the success of the party were de facto unlimited financial sources of Babis and his companies used for running a professional and highly effective campaign before the 2013 election (Gregor, Mackova 2014).

The Dawn was founded by Czech-Japanese businessman Tomio Okamura, owner of a firm that imported Japanese food as well as a travel agency. In 2012, Okamura was elected to the Senate (the upper house) and wanted to run in the historic first direct presidential elections in January 2013, but the Interior Ministry barred his candidacy for having an insufficient number of valid petition signatures. The key element of The Dawn's discourse was an unending emphasis on direct democracy as the most important element of any proposed reforms of the political system. The current setup of the political system of the Czech Republic--a representative parliamentary democracy with a proportional voting system--was understood by Okamura as the main culprit of the political crisis. Moreover, anti-Roma and xenophobic stances became a part--although not a key one--of the discourse of The Dawn. Okamura's popularity (he became the second most trustworthy politician after President Zeman just before the 2013 election--Kunstat 2013a) was the cornestone of success of the party. Nevertheless, the key opportunity opened for the new parties was a deepening of the political crisis since the period after the 2010 election failed to bring about a significant shift in the perception of politics by the public. The starting position of the center-right government formed after the 2010 was better (118 deputies out of 200) than that of the previous cabinet. However, the government was seriously weakened by ongoing conflicts within the governing coalition (Hlousek, 2012), and by several corruption scandals.

Moreover, trust in politics slumped notably after an internal VV document was made public which clearly indicated that the party's election campaign against corruption was chiefly designed as a way to increase business opportunities for Vice-Chairman Barta's private security firms through public procurement. Moreover, Barta allegedly paid off Deputies from his own party for their allegiance (Kmenta 2011). Subsequent speculation about a suspected intra-party putsch of "compromised" VV Deputies collaborating with ODS and TOP 09 (the other parties in the government) led to a split in the party, with some members of VV leaving the government altogether. In addition, internal ODS conflicts about party policy and whether or not the government was sufficiently "on the right" meant that eventually the government as a whole found itself without a secure majority in the Chamber of Deputies (Hlousek, 2012).

Allegation of corruption of the "rebelling" ODS deputies became one of the reasons for a police raid on the Office of the Government in spring 2013, and for charging Prime Minister Necas and the rebel deputies. The Prime Minister was forced to resign under pressure, which brought down the entire government. The political crisis was prolonged by President Milos Zeman, who refused to appoint a representative of ODS as the new Prime Minister, even though the new government had the declared support of a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Instead, the President appointed Jirf Rusnok, a former Minister of Finance from his government in the early 2000s, as Prime Minister. However, the government did not win a vote of confidence. As a consequence, the Chamber of Deputies voted to dissolve itself. Elections were then scheduled for the end of October 2013, which meant the longest period in the Czech history with a cabinet without a clear legitimacy, as well as the longest period with a dissolved Parliament.

Even more often than during the previous election term, the media reported about various alleged corruption scandals involving almost all the parliamentary parties such as ProMoPro affair (overpriced purchase of various equipment used during the Czech presidency over the EU), purchase of CASA airplanes for the Czech army, non-transparent public tenders at the Ministry for Environment or several instances of misappropriation of the money from European Union operational programmes at the regional level (one of the MPs was even arrested for alleged bribery). As in 2006-2010, repeated corruption scandals and government instability led to another drop of trust in the Parliament and satisfaction with the political situation fell to another historical low. In the weeks after a part of VV had left the government, average satisfaction with the political situation collapsed to just 5 per cent of the population, while trust in the Chamber of Deputies crumbled to 12 per cent (Kunstat, 2012; Kunstat, 2013b).

Consequently, with a deepening of the crisis of political trust before the 2013 general elections conditions for the rise of populist parties were even more favorable than three years earlier. The role of political crisis in the success of antiestablishment parties with no clear ideological profilation is indirectly confirmed by patterns of electoral support of ANO and The Dawn. Unlike TOP 09, these two new parties were not electorally anchored in terms of socio-demographic characteristics (Havlik, Voda, 2014). It indicates that the "old" socio-economic cleavage has been supplemented by a new conflict defined by negative attitudes to politics or established political parties instead of being linked to socio-demographic characteristics or attitudes of voters. (8)


The main aim of the paper was to analyse stability of the party system in the Czech Republic which is usually described as one of the most stable systems in East-Central Europe. The analysis was conducted by using selected quantitative approaches including volatility and party system institutionalization. With regards to electoral support of political parties, after the first turbulent years after the fall of communism the Czech party experienced exceptional years of stability with the same four of main political parties. However, the two last general elections brought a sudden decrease of support of the old parties and the emergence of new challengers.

A detailed analysis of party system institutionalization which took into consideration interactions among political parties confirmed the growing instability of the Czech party system. On the other hand, it questioned the proclaimed longterm stability since even before the 2010 election, the institutionalization of the Czech party system varied considerably due to the pariha status of KSCM, complicated relationship between the centre-right political parties and broad coalition potential of KDU-CSL. Though the extent of the changes the Czech party system underwent in recent years are exceptional.

Therefore, the second part of the analysis was aimed at explanation of the rise of the new political parties. First, it is necessary to distinguish between TOP 09 that made use of a weakened position of ODS and presented itself as purifying right-centre alternative to Civic Democrats and anti-establishment or populist group of parties including VV, ANO and The Dawn. These parties are very difficult to classify in terms of party families and although they discourse differs, their rise can be best explained by a deepened political crisis related to weak government and growing number of medialized corruption scandals. The rise of the new parties undermined the contours which characterize the Czech party system in the past: the number of relevant parties increased, the support of the established actors weakened significantly and new coalition formulae were introduced. All in all, once stable party system has become on of the most unpredictable party system configuration in East-Central Europe.


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Vlastimil Havlik (2)

(1) This article was ellaborated in the framework of the grant project Contemporary Challenges of Democracy in East-Central Europe (GAP408/11/0709) sponsored by the Czech Science Foundation.

(2) Vastimil Havlik is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Studies, Deparment of Political Science at Masaryk University. He focuses on the party politics in the Czech Republic, populist political parties and party-based Euroscepticism. E-mail:

(3) As already indicated above, this is a misleading interpretation as the aggregated data are unable, on their own, to uncover the direction of the shift of votes. Without availing oneself of the individual data, one cannot assume a priori that the dissatisfied voters of established parties will exclusively vote another established party.

(4) This is the figure for the Czech National Council. In the election of one chamber of the Federal Assembly, Civic Forum achieved more than 50% of the vote.

(5) It should be noted that both the democratic transition and the party system evolved in many respects differently in the two Republics constituting the Czechoslovak Federation.

(6) The only exception was the drop of political trust after the 1996 general election (Linek 2010). However, the context and consequences were very different in comparison to the period after the 2006 election. The Czech Republic was experiencing a severe economic crisis and dissatisfaction with political situation targeted mainly the centre-right government which had been in office since the beginning of the 1990s. Consequently, the main winner of the 1998 election was not the populist SPR-RSC (on contrary, the party lost its parliamentary representation that year) but the Czech Social Democratic Party presenting itself as a leftist alternative to the previous right-centre governments.

(7) Dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies was quite difficult at that time. To make the process faster and following the procedure applied in 1998, the Chamber of Deputies passed a special constitutional act which was supposed to shorten the term and call for early elections.

(8) Since data from the 2013 Election Study has not been released yet, this statement needs to be conformed by a further analysis.

Table 1: Operationalization of PSI components

Component     Operationalization

Government    Based on ministerial volatility (MV)
alternation     calculated by Pedersen index
              If MV is above 50% = MV
              If MV is below 50 % = 100--MV

Government    The very same combination of governing parties = 100%
formulae      Entirely new combination or a new party forms
                single party government = 100%
              Part of the new government is familiar = %
                of the familiar part
              A party which was earlier in government forms
                a government on its own = 100% - the previous
                coalition partners' %
Access to     % of ministers belonging to parties previously
government      in government

Source: Casal Bertoa, Enyedi 2014

Table 2: Electoral results in 1990-2010 (number of seats)

             1990 *    1992 *     1996      1998

OF             127
KSC(M)         32        35        22        24
HSD-SMS        22        14
KDU(-CSL)      19        15        18        20
US(-DEU)                                     19
ODS(-KDS)                76        68        63
ODA                      14        13
SPR-RSC                  14        18
CSSD                     16        61        74
SZ                       16
TOP 09
The Dawn

              2002      2006      2010      2013

KSC(M)         41        26        26        33
KDU(-CSL)                13                  14
US(-DEU)       31
ODS(-KDS)     58 **      81        53        16
CSSD           70        74        56        50
SZ                        6
TOP 09                             41        26
VV                                 24
ANO                                          47
The Dawn                                     14

Source of data:, results for the Czech
National Council, ** the Coalition

Table 3: Governments and PSI in the Czech Republic (1996-2013)

       Government           Alteration   Formulae   Access

1996   ODS--KDU-CSL--ODA      0,737         1         1
1998   CSSD                     1           0         0
2002   CSSD--KDU-CSL--US      0,333         0       0,834
2006   ODS--KDU-CSL--SZ       0,667       0,778     0,778
2010   ODS--TOP 09--VV         0,2          0        0,4
2013   CSSD--ANO--KDU-CSL       1         0,576     0,576

Source: Author's calculations
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Date:Jun 22, 2015
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