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POLITICAL SYSTEM

  HISTORY After World War II, the political system in Czechoslovakia was greatly affected by the introduction of a Soviet-style Communist regime, as it was in the other countries of central and eastern Europe. The system of power was distorted. In effect this imbalance meant that the three

HISTORY

After World War II, the political system in Czechoslovakia was greatly affected by the introduction of a Soviet-style Communist regime, as it was in the other countries of central and eastern Europe. The system of power was distorted. In effect this imbalance meant that the three branches of power necessary for democratic development - executive, legislative and judicial - were substituted by a unified Communist power. Its power was based on the constitution and for forty years it ruled all layers of social and political life throughout the country with the help of oppressive institutions. After February 1948, the Communist Party became the only autonomous political entity. It allowed a few other parties to exist within the so-called National Front; however, these parties held no real power and were created to provide an outward image of Czechoslovakia as a democratic state.


After the revolutionary events of November 1989 which brought about the downfall of the Communist regime, the entire country faced the uneasy task of resuming its pre-Communist traditions and building a democratic political system. A wide diversity of political parties were well-established even before the break-up of Czechoslovakia on December 31, 1992. The constitution of the Czech Republic, which became valid on the day of the birth of the new state, explicitly defined civil rights, the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of power, and the independence of the judiciary.

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CONSTITUTIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Parliament


The Parliament consists of two chambers - the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It passes all bills valid in the territory of the Czech Republic and expresses approval of important international treaties; i.e. those concerning human rights and basic liberties, political treaties, and general economic treaties. It decides the most important acts of state, such as declaring war or approving the deployment of foreign armies on Czech soil.

Chamber of Deputies


The Chamber of Deputies (Speaker - Miloslav Vlček) is made up of 200 deputies who are elected for a term of four years (the last elections took place in June 2002). The President can dissolve the Chamber of Deputies in cases outlined in the constitution. Political lobbies, ongoing parliamentary commissions and committees operate in the historical building which houses the chamber.

Senate


The Senate (Speaker - Přemysl Sobotka) is made up of 81 senators elected for six-year terms. Every two years one-third of the Senate's seats come up for re-election. The Senate cannot be dissolved.

Parliamentary Activity

A resolution by a parliamentary chamber is passed by a clear majority of deputies or senators present. A constitutional bill or an international treaty must be passed by a 60% majority of the total number of deputies and senators present.

The Legislative Process

Bills are sent to the Chamber of Deputies. The right of legislative initiative is possessed by a deputy, a group of deputies, the Senate, the Cabinet or local or regional cabinet representatives. A bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies is sent to the Senate which has the power to veto it, send it back to the Chamber of Deputies with amendments, or table the bill.

Elections to the Legislative Bodies

Elections to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate take place by secret ballot on the basis of general, equal and direct voting. The Chamber of Deputies is elected on the basis of proportional representation. Political parties must obtain five percent of the popular vote in order to gain seats in the chamber. The Senate is elected on the basis of majority vote. All citizens of the Czech Republic over 18 years of age have the right to vote for representatives in both chambers of Parliament. Candidates for the Chamber of Deputies must be over 21 years of age, while candidates for the Senate must be over 40 years of age.


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President


Elected for a term of five years by a joint session of both chambers of Parliament, the President (Václav Klaus) may serve a maximum of two successive terms in office. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Presidential power is limited; the most important is the right to veto any bill which has already been passed by Parliament, with the exception of constitutional bills. This power is void in times of constitutional or other political crises.


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Government


The Government is the supreme body of executive power. It Consists of the Prime Minister (Mirek Topolánek), Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers, and coordinates activities of the ministries and the central bodies of the state administration and manages the state administration throughout the territory of the state. The Government has exclusive legislative initiative in terms of the state budget.


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Supreme Audit Office

The Supreme Audit Office (František Dohnal) is an independent controlling agency which audits the management of state property and the implementation of the state budget. It audits the ways in which the resources of the state budget of the Czech Republic are created and used.

Czech National Bank


This is the central state bank of the Czech Republic. Based on law, the main goal of the bank is to preserve the stability and purchasing power of the currency, and while pursuing this goal, the bank is not dependent on the cabinet of the Czech Republic. The president (Zdeněk Tůma) and executives of the bank are appointed by the Head of State.

Constitutional Court


The Constitutional Court was set up to protect constitutional rights. It consists of 15 judges (Chairman - Pavel Rychetský) who are appointed by the President - with the consent of the Senate - for a term of ten years. In their decisions judges are bound only by constitutional laws, international treaties, and by a law designating the proceedings of the constitutional court.

Supreme Court


The Supreme Court is the supreme judicial body in all matters within the jurisdiction of the courts, except those within the jurisdiction of the constitutional court or the supreme administrative court. The judges (Chairman - Iva Brožová) are bound only by law and they are in a position to decide whether other legal regulations are in accordance with the law.


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THE POLITICAL SCENE

The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy.

In 1989, after overthrowing the one-party government, Czechoslovak citizens found new freedom - the right to freely form political parties and movements according to one's political convictions. Very soon after the fall of the totalitarian regime, a colorful variety of political parties was established and provided the foundations for a more stable political climate.

In the 1992 elections the coalition of ODS and KDS gained the majority of votes (33,4 %). In the Czech Republic a governmental coalition was formed (ODS-KDS, ODA, KDU-ČSL) by a new Prime Minister - Václav Klaus (ODS).

In the 1996 elections sixteen political parties and movements participated. Six of them obtained 5% or more of the popular vote in the Czech Republic. The three strongest government coalition parties (ODS, KDU-ČSL, ODA), obtained 99 mandates in the Chamber of Deputies and 52 mandates in the Senate. The government, with Prime Minister Václav Klaus (ODS), was center and right oriented and tried to finish the transformation process of the Czech republic.

In December 1997 the coalition parties (ODS, KDU-ČSL, ODA) were forced to resign due to collapse of coalition which was mainly caused by the long-term disagreements within the coalition, several scandals with financing the parties and also due to worsening of economic performance of the Czech Republic.

In January 1998 the new temporary government of Josef Tošovský was appointed. The task was to prepare the country for the early elections.

In June 1998 the early elections were held and the Czech Social Democratic Party gained the majority of votes (32,3 %). After few weeks of negotiations among all the parties finally ČSSD formed a minority government following a procedural agreement with the ODS (27,74). For the first time after the year 1989 a left oriented party rules in the Czech Republic. Miloš Zeman (ČSSD) became a new Prime Minister.

In June 2002 ČSSD repeated its success (30,2%) from 1998. However, in contradistinction to its former minority government, it now formed a coalition with so called 4-Coalition (KDU-ČSL, Freedom Union, Democratic Union, ODA) which enabled the new chief of the party Vladimír Špidla to create a majority government by using the smallest possible majority of votes (101) in Parliament.

In June 2004, after a reverse of ČSSD in the European elections followed by loss of support in its own party Vladimír Špidla resigned from both the Prime Minister and the party leader functions. A new majority government has been formed by the former vice-chairman of ČSSD Stanislav Gross in cooperation with the same coalition partners (except ODA).


In April 2005 Prime Minister Gross was compelled to resign due to the unclear financing of his private apartment. A new, personally modified government has been formed by the minister of regional development Jiří Paroubek.

In last parliamentary elections, held in June 2006, Civic Demoratic Party won the competition with 35,4% of votes and gained 81 mandates in the Chamber of Deputies.


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PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES

(according to the results of 2006 elections)


Občanská demokratická strana (ODS) - Civic Democratic Party

Chairman: Mirek Topolánek

Party disposes of: 81 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 26 seats in the Senate

Supporters include: voters with higher education, business people, urban dwellers, particularly in Prague

Description: The Civic Democratic Party is a right-wing conservative party founded in April 1991. ODS pushed through rapid economic reforms in Czechoslovakia and then in the Czech Republic. ODS promotes a liberal economy ruling without major state interventions. In 1996 ODS became once again the leading part of governmental coalition but the government didn´t have majority in the Lower Chamber of Parliament. In the year 1997 a campaign finance scandal caused that several top party officials defected in January 1998 to form the Freedom Union. For the 1998 elections the party mounted an aggressive PR campaign to stop the decreasing trend in voters support. Nevertheless, it lost these elections to ČSSD. The same situation appeared after elections in 2002. The party wants strong ties with Western Europe, supports NATO and European Union membership as well as the development of stronger local and regional government.

Česká strana sociálně demokratická (ČSSD) - Czech Social Democratic Party

Chairman: Jiří Paroubek

Party disposes of: 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 10 seats in the Senate


Supporters include: manual laborers, people with elementary education, residents of industrial regions of northern Bohemia and northern Moravia

Description: The current ČSSD was re-established in November 19th, it is the successor to a party established in 1878 and disbanded by the Communists in 1948. Its manifesto says that it supports a socially and environmentally oriented and state-regulated economy. The popularity of the party has been growing almost constantly. In 1996 elections the party the party gained 26,4 % of votes but stayed in the opposition. In the 1998 elections the party gained 32,3 % of votes and formed a minority social democratic government. It emphasizes social policies and critiques of the concept and process of economic reform.


Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy - Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia


Chairman: Vojtěch Filip

Party disposes of: 26 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 3 seats in the Senate

Supporters include: pensioners, communists, manual laborers, supporters of a strong welfare state

Description: While the Communists have distanced themselves from the 1948-89 era, they continue to advocate a state-regulated economy and higher taxes for the rich. Their platform also calls for free education, free health care, a 35-hour work week and measures against the " Americanization" of Czech culture (through broadcasting regulations, for example). They want to review controversial privatizations, stop privatization and reverse the deregulation of rents and utility costs. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia failed to transform itself into a modern left-wing party of the kind which exists in neighboring countries. It is the last of the former totalitarian parties in Central Europe to retain the name 'Communist.' Splinter groups have broken off from the party because of internal divisions, leading to the establishment of several new parties.

Křesťansko-demokratická unie - Československá strana lidová (KDU-ČSL) - Cristian Democratic Union - Czechoslovak People´s Party

Chairman: Jiří Čunek

Party disposes of: 13 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 16 seats in the Senate

Supporters include: Catholics, pensioners, voters in southern Moravia

Description: The successor to the Catholic-oriented People's Party which was active between the wars. In the Communist era it existed as a powerless decoration of the totalitarian regime. After 1989 the party underwent a complicated internal transformation, and at present it declares itself to be a conservative party with a Christian social orientation. It supports the idea of social market economy. The party's manifesto calls for completion of privatization, balanced budget, gradual change from direct to indirect taxation. The party receives traditionally between 8-10 % of votes.


Strana zelených - Green Party

Chairman: Martin Bursík

Party disposes of: 6 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, no seat in the Senate

Supporters include: voters with higher education, urban dwellers

Description: The Green Party wants to realize a vision of an ecological democracy. It therefore calls for a society characterized by cultural maturity, social sensibility, political plurality and economical stability. As to economics it sees through creating of a liberal, transparent enterprising without unnecessary bureaucracy. Regarding ecological topics it concentrates on climate protection along with gradual diversion from traditional energy resources dependence. Besides standard environmental topics, the Green Party also defenses gender equality rights as well as registered partnership of homosexual couples.