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The political color of the Czech Republic has changed overnight.

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The political color of the Czech Republic has changed overnight.

It was mostly blue, the color of right-wing forces, before the elections in the second half of October, when Czechs elected regional governments and a third of the Senate, the upper house of the Czech parliament. Since then, the color has changed to the Social Democratic orange.

The Czech Social Democratic Party fully avenged its defeat in the 2006 elections to the lower house of parliament, which gave power in the country to the right-wing center cabinet led by the Civil Democratic Party, in cooperation with Christian Democrats and the Green Party. The Czech left-wing parties are now in the opposition.

The Czech Republic is divided into 14 regions, with elections held every four years in 13 of them. The remaining region, Prague, follows a different schedule and will have elections in two years. This alone has saved the Civil Democratic Party from a crushing defeat.

Prague is now an island of blue in a sea of orange. The Czech Social Democratic Party has defeated the Civil Democratic Party in 12 regions and the Christian Democrats in one region.

Czechs have always regarded the Senate as something of a rest home for second-rate politicians, with election turnout usually ranging between 20% and 30%.

The situation this year, however, was completely different. During the first and second rounds, held one week apart, 40% and 30% of Czechs, respectively, came to the voting stations. As a result, the Czech Social Democratic Party won a landslide victory, getting 23 seats in 27 electoral districts. The Civil Democratic Party won three seats in Prague and the Communist Party will have only one representative.

Although the right-wing government remains in power, the election results can be interpreted as a vote of no-confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, unpopular even before the elections with an approval rating of only 24% in September.

As soon as he came to power, Topolanek proclaimed right-wing reforms and said that state and public property would be privatized wherever possible.

He began with healthcare, where the government prepared hospitals for privatization and introduced payment for consultations with a doctor, ambulance services, and hospital stays. Although the fee is only between 30 and 90 korunas, and the average monthly wage is more than 20,000 korunas, the psychological effect was stunning.

Czechs deduct 13.5% of their salaries for the obligatory medical insurance fund, which gives them the right to use healthcare facilities free of charge. This is why the people, especially in the low- and medium-income groups, said Topolanek's innovation was illegal and anti-social.

The government promptly accused them of harboring communist sentiments.

It also disregarded public opinion when it agreed to sign the ABM radar treaty with the United States.

Approximately 70% of Czechs said they were against the deployment of U.S. missile tracking radar, but the cabinet turned a deaf ear. Topolanek, who posed as a pro-American and anti-Russian politician, said the opponents were Communists and other left-wing supporters, and that the protest movement was paid for with money from the Russian security services.

The people hated the prime minister for demonstratively disregarding their opinion and the opposition and for his vulgar gestures during parliament sessions, intolerant statements in the media, and physical attacks at journalists.

They also became unnerved by his questionable private habits. Topolanek, age 51, is still married to his wife, with whom he has had three children, but is living with another woman, who had a son by him 18 months ago. Worse still, she is his colleague in the party and the lower house of parliament and has been nominated deputy speaker of the house, which is suspicious.

The October elections have not helped to replace the government. The attempt by the opposition - Social Democrats and Communists - to hold a no-confidence vote between election rounds also failed. But Topolanek knows that his time is running out.

He can expect a knife in the back from his allies in the coalition, above all Christian Democrats, who have lost seats in the regions and the Senate. A growing number of members of the Civil Democratic Party say they should elect a new party leader at the December congress, and in fact, there is a candidate for the post.

With all of this going on, it is clear why the first thing that the prime minister and his team did after the elections was add the ratification of the treaty on the U.S. radar to parliament's agenda. The Senate will vote in the pre-election format dominated by the Civil Democratic Party, because the new members have not yet taken the oath.

The hearings have already begun.

Alexander Mitrofanov is a political commentator at Pravo, a Czech newspaper covering local news.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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