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Czech Republic

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Politics and government of
the Czech Republic



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Politically, the Czech Republic is a multi-party parliamentary representative democratic republic. According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, the President is the head of state while the Prime Minister is the head of government, exercising supreme executive power. The Legislature is bicameral, with the Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) and the Senate (Senát).

Contents

Political developments

The Czech political scene supports a broad spectrum of parties ranging from Communist Party on the far left to various nationalistic parties on the extreme right. Generally, the (liberal) right beyond the specific case of huge and conservative Civic Democratic Party is splintered and has failed in several attempts to unite.

Czech voters returned a split verdict in the June 2002 parliamentary elections, giving Social Democrats (ČSSD) and Communists majority, without any possibility to form a functioning government together due to Vladimír Špidla's strong anticommunism. The results produced a ČSSD coalition government with Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and Liberals (US-DEU), while Civic Democrats (ODS) and Communists (KSČM) took place in opposition. The MP ratio was the tiniest 101:99. After many buffetings and, finally, after the catastrophic results of the June European Parliament election, 2004 Špidla resigned after a revolt in his own party and the government was reshuffled on the same basis.

Flag of the Czech president

As the system in Czech repeatedly produces very weak governments (a specific problem is that about 15% of the electorate support the Communists, who are shunned by all the other parties) there is constant talk about changing it but without much chance of really pushing the reform through. An attempt to increase majority elements by tweaking the system parameters (more smaller districts, d'Hondt method used) by ČSSD and ODS during their "opposition agreement" 1998–2002 was vehemently opposed by smaller parties and blocked by the Constitutional Court as going too much against the constitution-stated proportional principle; only a moderated form was adopted. This, however led to a stalemate in 2006 elections where both the left and the right each gained exactly 100 seats; as many commenters point out, the earlier system would have given the right 3–4 seats majority.

In March 2006, the parliament overturned a veto by President Václav Klaus, and the Czech Republic became the first former communist country in Europe to grant legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.

A government formed of a coalition of the ODS, KDU-ČSL, and the Green Party (SZ), and led by the leader of the ODS Mirek Topolánek finally succeeded in winning a vote of confidence on January 19, 2007. This was thanks to two members of the ČSSD, Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka, who abstained.

On March 23, 2009, the government of Mirek Topolánek lost a vote of no-confidence.

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Václav Klaus ODS (ex-member) 7 March 2003
Prime Minister Jan Fischer Independent 8 May 2009
Seat of government in Prague - Malá Strana

The President of the Czech Republic is elected by joint session of the parliament for five-year term (no more than two consecutive). The president is a formal head of state with limited specific powers, most importantly to return laws to the parliament, nominate Constitutional Court judges for Senate's approval, and dissolve the parliament under certain special and rare conditions. He also appoints the prime minister as well the other members of the cabinet on a proposal by the prime minister. Václav Klaus, now President of the Czech Republic, former Prime Minister and chairman of Civic Democrats (ODS) remains one of the country's most popular politicians.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and wields considerable powers, including the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policy, mobilize the parliamentary majority, and choose governmental ministers.

Legislative branch

Interior of Sněmovna

The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) has two chambers. The Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) has 200 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation with a 5 % election threshold. There are 14 voting districts identical to the country's administrative regions. The Chamber of Deputies, at first the Czech National Council, has the powers and responsibilities of the now defunct federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia.

The Senate (Senát) has 81 members, in single-seat constituencies elected by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one third renewed every even year in the autumn. The first election was 1996 (for differing terms). This is patterned after the U.S. Senate but each constituency is of (roughly) same size and the system used is two-round runoff voting. The Senate is unpopular among the public and suffers from low election turnout (overall roughly 30% in the first round, 20% in the second).

Political parties and elections

e • d  Summary of the 2-3 June, 2006 Czech Chamber of Deputies election results
Parties and coalitions Ideology Votes % Seats Change
Civic Democratic Party (Občanská demokratická strana) Liberal conservatism 1,892,475 35.38 81 +23
Czech Social Democratic Party (Česká strana sociálně demokratická) Social democracy 1,728,827 32.32 74 +4
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy) Communism 685,328 12.81 26 -15
Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party
(Křesťansko-demokratická unie – Československá strana lidová)
Christian democracy 386,706 7.23 13 -9
Green Party (Strana zelených) Green politics 336,487 6.29 6 +6
SNK European Democrats (SNK Evropští demokraté) Liberal conservatism 111,724 2.09 0
Others 207,429 3.88 0 -91
Total (turnout 64.47%) 5,348,976 100.00 200
1 Due to the Freedom Union–Democratic Union losing its nine seats.
Source: Czech Statistical Office
e • d  Senate of the Czech Republic composition after the 2008 election and 2007 by-election in 2 constituencies
Party Seats
Civic Democratic Party (Občanská demokratická strana) 35
Czech Social Democratic Party (Česká strana sociálně demokratická) 29
Christian Democratic Union - Czechoslovak People's Party (Křesťanská a demokratická unie – Československá strana lidová)includes 1 elected in 2002 as an independent candidate 7
Caucus SNK (Senátorský klub SNK) comprises 6 senators elected for
SNK European Democrats (SNK Evropští demokraté) 1
Independents Movement (Hnutí NEZÁVISLÍ) 1*
Independent Mayors for Region (Nezávislí starostové pro kraj) 1*
Caucus of Open Democracy (Klub otevřené demokracie) comprises 7 senators elected for
Freedom Union - Democratic Union (Unie svobody - Demokratická unie) 1*
Green Party (Strana zelených) 1*
Party for the Open Society (Strana pro otevřenou společnost) in 2006 1*
United Democrats - Union of Independents (Spojení demokraté - Sdružení nezávislých) 1*
Non aligned
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy, KSČM) in 2002, 2004 and 2007 3
Total 81
Source: Czech Statistical Office, Senate

The electoral party (the party on whose label the senator ran) can be volatile, especially with senators elected for tiny parties, so caucuses are more relevant.

  • For senators from tiny electoral parties who are not their formal members

Judicial branch

The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court, which rules on constitutional issues, is appointed by the president with Senate approval, and its 15 members serve 10-year terms. The justices of the Constitutional Court have a mandatory retirement age of 70.

Administrative divisions

The Czech Republic is divided in 14 Regions including the capital of Prague. The older 73 districts (okresy, singular: okres) and 4 municipalities* (města, singular: město) were disbanded in 1999 in an often-criticised administrative reform; however are still traditionally recognized and remain the seats of various branches of state administration: Benešov, Beroun, Blansko, Břeclav, Brno-město*, Brno-venkov, Bruntál, České Budějovice, Česká Lípa, Český Krumlov, Cheb, Chomutov, Chrudim, Děčín, Domažlice, Frýdek-Místek, Havlíčkův Brod, Hodonín, Hradec Králové, Jablonec nad Nisou, Jeseník, Jičín, Jihlava, Jindřichův Hradec, Karlovy Vary, Karviná, Kladno, Klatovy, Kolín, Kroměříž, Kutná Hora, Liberec, Litoměřice, Louny, Mělník, Mladá Boleslav, Most, Náchod, Nový Jičín, Nymburk, Olomouc, Opava, Ostrava*, Pardubice, Pelhřimov, Písek, Plzeň*, Plzeň-jih, Plzeň-sever, Prachatice, Praha*, Praha-východ, Praha-západ, Přerov, Příbram, Prostějov, Rakovník, Rokycany, Rychnov nad Kněžnou, Semily, Sokolov, Strakonice, Šumperk, Svitavy, Tábor, Tachov, Teplice, Trutnov, Třebíč, Uherské Hradiště, Ústí nad Labem, Ústí nad Orlicí, Vsetín, Vyškov, Žďár nad Sázavou, Zlín, Znojmo

International organization participation

The Czech Republic is member of Australia Group, BIS, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (among the 10 new members since May 2004), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, ITUC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie) (observer),OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UPU, Visegrád group, WCO, WEU (associate), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee

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