The Czech left has been experiencing the biggest slump in its history since 1918. It will need time to revive itself and find a way to avoid a slide to the extreme-right rhetoric.
Every type of election in Czechia attracts special attention. There are several reasons for this. One of them is the size of the Czech population in comparison with similar countries in Central Europe (in Czechia, today there are 10.56 million inhabitants, while in Hungary there are 9.8 million and 5.4 million in Slovakia. There are 542,000 foreigners in Czechia – most of them are of Ukrainian and Slovakian origin, approximately 107,000 each, followed by the Vietnamese with a total of 57,000). It can be assumed that Czech society is relatively nationally homogeneous, while not being nationally closed at the same time. However, in relation to the so-called migration crisis, the attitude of the vast majority of the Czech population is very reserved at least. Additionally, in contrast to other countries in the region, the former Soviet Bloc Czech society and the political system did not experience any kind of major turbulence. For almost 30 years, it has been clearly dominated by the concept of a neoliberal global society, constituted by a party-structured, robust, right-wing block opposed by a stable left-wing block.
This block – which primarily originated from the former Communist Party – has never been part of the government so far (in contrast with several post-socialist countries in the ’90s). Nevertheless, it has transformed itself – although, according to some of its critics, insufficiently – into the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), and several other small political entities, such as the Party of Democratic Socialism. Apart from this, a restored Czech Social Democracy, representing a centre-left political spectrum of society, became a significant force in parliament from the second half of the 1990s, including its participation in several governments. However, it has long been refusing cooperation with the KSČM at a national level. KSČM’s candidate lists have been dominated by the representatives of the radical left in virtually all the elections over the last 25 years. Virtually no other (non-communist) radical left-wing entity has participated in the elections at parliamentary and regional levels. At municipal and district levels, the elected representatives of the KSČM have been and are part of the ruling coalitions. Although, the composition of the left-wing groupings in Czech society is relatively heterogeneous; the Communist Party with its permanent presence in Czech Parliament since 1989 is dominant. Its candidates are also among those who have succeeded in all European Parliament elections (since 2004, when Czechia became a member of the EU). The latest parliamentary elections in Czechia saw poor results for both left-wing parties: KSČM (7.76%) and the Social Democratic Party (7.27%). The Czech radical left feels the need to analyse the situation and bring forward proposals for further activities. This will not be a simple and confrontation-free process.
Over recent years, transform! europe has been analysing the regional differences of the individual European regions, including left-wing political activities there, as well as the ways in which these countries and their left-wing movements contribute to the pan-European, left-wing currents. The aim is to then broadcast this knowledge to all leftist forces, e.g., in connection with the preparation of the 2019 European Parliament elections and the role of the radical left in European structures, especially in the European Parliament.
Furthermore, as a contribution to this discussion, transform! europe is publishing this policy paper which focuses on the last Czech parliamentary elections, where the radical left – like many similar parties in other European countries – experienced a serious defeat. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is going to open its presence in Prague this year. As part of this process, it organised an international colloquium on election results in various European countries, primarily in the Central European region, in December 2017. In agreement with this foundation, we have decided to publish the speeches delivered on the situation in Czechia in a policy paper which could be helpful for readers across Europe to comprehend at least some aspects of the Czech political development.