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Cablegate: Pro-American Civic Democrats Win Big in Czech

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OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHPG #1322/01 2961603
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 231603Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8128
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 001322

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/NCE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EZ
SUBJECT: PRO-AMERICAN CIVIC DEMOCRATS WIN BIG IN CZECH
SENATE AND MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

1. SUMMARY AND COMMENT: The October 20 - 21 municipal
elections and the first round of Senate elections resulted in
a stronger than expected victory for the right-of-center
Civic Democrats (ODS), considered the most pro-American among
Czech political parties. This will likely strengthen Prime
Minister Mirek Topolanek's chances of remaining as party
chair when ODS meets for its annual party congress in
mid-November. However, what effect the Senate elections will
have on political negotiations over the shape of the next
government remains uncertain. President Klaus has said he
will wait until after the second round of the Senate races
(October 27 - 28) before he selects the person who will try
and form the next government. Given that the lower chamber
of Parliament remains evenly divided between the left and
right-leaning coalitions, an ODS-majority Senate will be
helpful but not definitive in pushing such priority USG
issues as missile defense through Parliament. END SUMMARY
AND COMMENT.

2. ODS VICTORY: With one-third of 81 Senate seats up for
election, the right-of-center Civic Democrat (ODS) party
achieved better than expected results during the October 20 -
21 municipal and first round of Senate elections. As a
result, ODS will have a candidate in 26 of the 27 runoffs in
the second and final round of Senate elections October 27 -
28, compared to its main rival left-of-center Social
Democrats (CSSD) which will have 11 candidates, the Christian
Democrats 6, the Communists 3, and the Greens 2. The ODS
caucus currently has 38 of the 81 seats in the Senate, and if
they win an additional three seats, ODS will have a
commanding majority. Final results of municipal elections
showed ODS won 36%, CSSD 17%, Communists 12%, Christian
Democrats 8%, and the Greens 4.5%.

3. KEY RACES: Two races the Embassy is following closely are
those involving Foreign Minister Sasha Vondra, and former
White House and State Department official Eliska Haskova
Coolidge. Vondra received almost 36% of the vote and will
have a runoff against former CSSD parliamentarian Robert
Kopecky, who had just under 18% support. Kopecky is far
enough to the left to gain significant support from Communist
voters, but is not expected to be able to make up the 18%
difference. Newspapers are already calling that race in
favor of Vondra. Haskova Coolidge also came out on top in
the first round, edging out local Susice Mayor Jirina
Rippelova (CSSD) by slightly more than one percentage point.
Newspapers are predicting that with the support of Communist
voters, Rippelova will win a narrow victory in the second
round.

4. Two prominent members of the CSSD shadow cabinet, Marie
Benesova (Justice) and Jiri Havel (Education), did
unexpectedly badly, a result that some analysts are
interpreting as a reflection of discontent with the
government of former CSSD Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. CSSD
is, nevertheless, expected to win five or six seats in the
second round of Senate elections. Former Prime Minister and
CSSD Chair Jiri Paroubek called on all other parties to unite
against ODS candidates in the second round. The Greens and
the Christian Democrats rejected the appeal. The Communists
are saying they don't want to join the Paroubek initiative,
but will support ODS opponents in some races.

5. MIXED RESULTS FOR SMALL PARTIES: The Green Party, perhaps
reflecting a lack of prominent personalities, is not expected
to win any of the 27 Senate seats being contested. However,
the party did add a significant number of city councilors,
going from a few dozen nationwide to nearly 300, which will
help them build for the future. The Christian Democrats are
defending eight seats. They made it to the second round in
six of the districts and are expected to win three or
possibly four seats, a poor showing but not as disastrous as
some analysts were predicting. The Christian Democrats also
lost the party's only mayoralty at a large city (Ceske
Budejovice). The Communists are not defending any Senate
seats, are not expected to win any seats, but they do have
three candidates in the second round of Senate elections.
The party did lose votes in some of the city councils that it
had controlled in the past, particularly in areas of high
unemployment along the northern border with Poland.

6. ODS SWEEPS MUNICIPALITIES: The biggest news in the local
elections was the landslide victory by ODS in the capital,
Prague. ODS took more than 53% of the votes and is in the
unprecedented position of being able to run the city without
support from other parties. Some analysts are speculating
that ODS might trade seats in the Prague government for
concessions from other parties in talks over the formation of

PRAGUE 00001322 002 OF 002


the next national government. Current Mayor Pavel Bem (ODS)
is being given much of the credit for the triumph, and is
consequently seen as a leader whose star is in ascendancy.
In a move that is being much analyzed, President Klaus met
personally with Bem to congratulate him on his victory. One
of the reasons the move is getting so much attention is that
Klaus didn't meet with Topolanek to congratulate him on the
overall ODS victory. For his part, Bem is saying publicly
that he is not going to challenge Topolanek for the party's
leadership, but would step forward if an emergency, such as
the threat of a Paroubek government, presented itself.

7. Nationwide, ODS, at 30.5% improved on its showing in the
local elections four years ago by more than 5 percentage
points. The Greens, at 4.5% were up more than 3 points over
their previous showing. CSSD was up by one point to 17%.
The two losers were the Communists, down by one percentage
point to 12%, and the Christian Democrats, down by 2 points
to 8%. ODS won the polling in 21 of the 24 so-called
statutory cities. ODS even edged out the Communists in
Havirov, traditionally one of the most pro-Communist
localities on the nation. Four years ago, ODS lost to KSCM by
seven percentage points in Havirov, 26% to 19%. This year,
ODS won a narrow victory, 25.8% to 25.5%

8. Turnout for the Senate elections was just over 42%, which
is higher than usual for Senate races. This surprised some
analysts, who expected the previous four months of political
stalemate and mud-slinging to have increased voter apathy.
Traditionally, turnout drops significantly for the second
round. Turnout for the local elections was just under 47%,
slightly below the average for municipal polls.
GRABER

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