The Czech Constitutional Court has announced a fundamental change in the electoral law, which will impact the autumn parliamentary elections. The additive quorum for coalition formation was abolished, as well as the method for distributing votes, which disadvantaged small parties in the current system. It will now be enough for coalitions consisting of several parties or movements to receive only 5 percent of the vote to get into the Chamber of Deputies.
The Chamber of Deputies, together with the Senate, now has to find a solution for converting votes into seats. The Constitutional Court made the decision based on the complaints of several senators filed in 2017.
According to the Court, the threshold for party coalitions was in conflict with the Constitution. Two coalitions for the autumn parliamentary elections have already been formed: the right-wing bloc of TOP 09, Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and Civic Democrats (ODS) and the center coalition of the Czech Pirates and Mayors and Independent (STAN).
Although the change will concern this autumn’s elections, the Court claims that there is still time to find a solution, and it would only be risky had the Court made the decision after the deadline for submitting candidate lists in August.
Overall, the repeal of parts of the electoral law is a win-win for smaller parties. For example, the complaint stated that these smaller parties would have gained more seats in the last elections to the Chamber of Deputies in 2017 if the redistribution of votes had worked differently.
A day before the Constitutional Court disclosed its decision, President Miloš Zeman warned against any change to the electoral law. According to him, it could lead to an unsolvable constitutional crisis. He pointed out that the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate might not agree on the amendment to the electoral law by the October elections.
The decision of the Constitutional Court also outraged Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
“The Constitutional Court has forgotten its boundaries and is actively trying to influence the political situation in the country, which is not its responsibility at all,” said Babiš.
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Radek Vondráře, then warned that the timing of the decision is extremely bad. According to him, the Court put the legislator under enormous pressure and caused a potential political crisis in the Czech Republic.
Former President Václav Klaus also criticized the change in the electoral law, pointing out that it will lead to weaker governments, more chaotic coalitions and a more fragmented political scene.
Title image: Judges of the Czech Constitutional Court (The Constitutional Court / usoud.cz)