|Which of these 10 European leaders will leave office next?|
Politics in the Czech Republic have long been characterized by fragmentation and volatility, with new parties appearing regularly, and even the most established parties experiencing periodic wipeouts at the hands of voters.
The 2017 election underlined this trend, with a record nine parties clearing the five percent threshold necessary for representation in the Chamber of Deputies (there are now 11 parties represented due to further splintering during the parliamentary term). Though, five of those parties scored less than 10 percent of the vote, which left them with only a handful of MPs each.
Unsurprisingly, a parliament composed of so many small parties, ranging from the hard-left Communists to the far-right Social Democratic Party (SPD) via a colorful array of conservatives, liberals, regionalists and pirates, has often struggled to provide a coherent opposition to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The prime minister’s ANO movement has successfully positioned itself in the center of the political spectrum with a non-ideological populism-lite, drawing the support of older, rural voters, ex-communists, and those disillusioned with other parties from across the spectrum, establishing a seemingly unassailable command over the political landscape.
All this may be in the process of changing — for two reasons. For one, Babiš — a billionaire businessman before entering politics — has seen his popularity hit by the pandemic and a slow vaccine rollout. And two, several of the parties in the fragmented opposition entered into negotiations to form electoral alliances for the general election in October.
The threat these alliances pose to ANO has swiftly become clear in opinion polls, with both now consistently polling over 20 percent, within a few percentage points of ANO, and Pirates and Mayors even taking the lead in a poll released in mid-February. Public support for the government’s handling of the crisis is now at 40 percent, down 12 percentage points since November, according to pollster STEM/MARK. The opposition parties have been keen to paint the government as incompetent and out-of-touch, and unwilling to accept suggestions and offers of help.
Market Pulse: It is far too early to start writing the prime minister’s political obituary, for many reasons. Firstly, the election is still eight months away. Secondly, even if the alliances manage to maintain their current favorable poll numbers, there is the issue of forming a new government; a coalition between the two blocs would include five parties. Much depends on the country’s experience of the pandemic between now and October, especially the roll-out of the vaccination program. The Czech Republic recorded the highest per capita infection rate in the world over the last week and has explored acquiring the Sputnik V vaccine even without approval by the EU’s drugs agency, the European Medicines Agency.
If events continue to go south for Babiš, we could see a race against time as Germany holds its general elections on Sept. 26. Formation of any government takes time, how long could be the decider in this market. Germany’s Angela Merkel is the early favorite to be the next European leader to leave office at 69¢, while Babiš stands at 11¢ as of 9 a.m. EST. Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Draghi, is third at 6¢ and the Netherlands, which holds an election on March 17, has Mark Rutte fourth at 5¢.