Will the Czech Pirates Sink the Czech Government?

Ivan Bartoš, leader of the Czech Pirate Party

According to the most recent polls, the Czech Pirate Party has gained in voter preferences a few months before parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic.

If elections were to be held now, a coalition between the Pirates and the party of The Mayors and Independents (STAN) would be in pole position with 27 percent, a centre-right electoral alliance called SPOLU would gain 21.5 percent, and the party of current prime minister Andrej Babiš would be relegated to third place with 21 percent.

The surprising shift in voter preferences has prompted the Pirates to start collecting signatures in Parliament in order to schedule a vote of confidence against the current government, and if successful, they planned to call for early parliamentary elections as soon as July.

The move was mostly a demonstration of strength and a provocation that will play well with their young urban electorate. However, apart from embarrassing the prime minister, the motion has little practical effect, as elections are scheduled for Oct. 8 regardless.

For a vote of confidence, they needed the signature of 50 currently serving MPs, and although a united opposition could easily produce this amount of signatures, the fact is that the Pirates being on the far left could hardly gain the support of right-wing or centrist MP’s, even though they all would in principle support the removal of the Czech government.

Eventually, on May 6, the Pirates have postponed their efforts to bring about an early election, quoting the president’s decision to officially schedule a date for autumn. Nevertheless, they have achieved their goal by creating controversy on the one hand, and gaining significant publicity in the Czech media on the other.

The Pirates’ rise in the polls could, among other factors, be explained by the publication of the results of the Vrbětice explosion inquiry, in which Russian secret agents have been implicated. The news has caused enormous outrage among the Czech public.

Although their pronounced and unequivocal stance did broadly reflect the public mood in the country, if the recent news about the Vrbětice explosion are correct, this might come back to haunt them at the fall elections.

Regardless of the fact whether Russian agents have been involved in the incident or not, the finding calls the original conclusion of the investigation regarding the motifs of the perpetrators into question.

Even if the new polls were correct, and the Pirates could garner over a quarter of the votes with the liberal, pro-European coalition partners STAN, it is highly unlikely that they could form the next Czech government. Yet, a growth in their support could complicate the work for the next centrist government, which is the most likely scenario after the October elections.

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