The Question of a Three-Party Political System and the Value of the Bug-eater
Pre-election rhetoric is disappearing, and parties are starting to think of compromise and spolužití once again. This would seem all for the better, though a long-term trend is worrying.
Klaus and Zeman getting chummy, and it is clear that a mutual respect has developed between them - or at least an acknowledgement that they will have to learn to co-exist civilly. This was evident even before the election in statements such as Klaus' that CSSD and ODS are the only parties with real vision. There are two giants on the Czech political scene, and they realise that neither of them is gong to disappear very soon.
A third giant is now in the process of being born. The sloučení of KDU-CSL and US has been a rumour for weeks, and has even been given open consideration by major figures in both parties. It seems that no matter whether they opt to help form the left or right coalition, their union seems inevitable.
It seems inevitable mainly because of the repeated desire on the political scene - from the Hrad and from members of US - for electoral reform. With the Republicans now out of Parliament, one might think that the Hrad's desire and US's ambitions for electoral change would be diminished to some extent - but then we would be forgetting that other "undemocratic" party that oddly takes part in, and wins seats in Parliament through democratic elections. The move to "stablise" the Czech political system by blocking out small parties will, I fear, continue.
In the většinovém systému budoucnosti, if current trends and pressures continue, we will see a three-party system develop: only CSSD, ODS and the "Union of Unions" parties will have little chance in such a system of voting for the all-important Lower House. Take a look at the Senate elections now to see how insignificant smaller parties are.
But before everyone gets overly excited about finally seeing the end of KSCM - not a bad thing by itself - it would starting a wide-ranging public debate about the many consequences of the resultant three-party system.
Would that new third political giant be stable? Is it reasonable to think that it could play king-maker for both right and left coalitions several times, but it also seems logical that eventually people would get sick of this because it would seem like a lack of principle. After the third party lost favour, it could be forced to unite with one of the main two parties or disappear from the political scene forever. Three parties would eventually become two.
From American experience, one can see that a two-party system is not dynamic, and leads to a kind of political stagnation. Most importantly, it is difficult for new ideas to filter into politics. The mire of the American congress is not the best example for the Czech Republic - the now ancient US system seems hopelessly outdated for such a young state like the Czech Republic. A young state should make use of its political vibrancy not try to strangle it.
But even if the new electoral system and unification of Unions left three parties intact for a significant period of time, the political scene would be stupefied. In a vetsinovem systemu even with more than two significant parties, it is difficult to get new ideas to the forefront of public attention. To be dynamic and prepared in this rapidly changing world, new ideas have to be embraced much more quickly than before. Problems have to be solved more quickly lest your competitors get an edge on you. Closing the door to new ideas - or rather putting additional obstacles in their path - will damage the preparedness of small countries fighting to increase their significance in the global market.
He is a Bug-eater, but Still...
Despite the fact that his movement had no clear solutions to today's problems, Kremlicka scored one success in recent months. He showed the value of the current electoral system in the Czech Republic.
Pensioners have been neglected in recent years, and DZJ articulated their dissatisfaction to some extent. As soon as it seemed that they would get into Parliament, all the other parties started paying much more attention to this important issue. In the end, DZJ didn't make it into Parliament, but public concern was raised significantly. DZJ thus served an important role: they got politicians to focus on an issue with the real threat of stealing votes.
It is doubtful that such a phenomenon would be seen in a vetsinovem systemu - certainly not in the USA or UK, where no upstart party has even the slightest chance of a seat in the legislature let alone a possibility of executive power. In those countries, lobby groups play the role of encouraging the major parties to focus on particular issues.
The problem with that is of course that lobby groups owe their strength to money - sometimes (more democratically) from many smaller donations but often from a few large single donors. DZJ got the country's attention not because it had a war-chest of crowns to impress others but because, according to preliminary polls, it had popular support. More importantly, DZJ threatened the political support of other parties to such an extent that those other parties had to respond by facing the main issue DZJ raised.
The time factor is critical. Lobbies in the USA work by impressing Congressmen and Senators over a relatively long period of time. DZJ's effect on the political scene in the Czech Republic was immediate by comparison. The reaction time of the Czech political heavyweights was impressive. At one point it seemed that every one was talking about the problems of pensioners.
Though I am glad that DZJ did not get into Parliament, I think that their example shows the advantages of the current political system. It reacts quickly in drawing attention to people's needs and fears. This is critical for a young country like the Czech Republic where democratic traditions are very weak. I hope that the current system of voting to the lower house is given a decent public hearing before any moves are made to change it. It certainly has its faults, but for the Czech Republic, it also brings some benefits.