What happened in Czechia? Results of the October 2017 Czech Parliamentary elections in the context of the ‘refugee crisis without refugees’ The Czech Republic is undergoing a period of prosperity - with GDP growing, unemployment reaching historical lows and margins between rich and poor are one of the smallest in the world. The ‘refugee crisis‘ has also had a minuscule impact on the Czech Republic with only couple of thousands of refugees crossing the country’s borders between 2015 and 2017. Despite these facts, the Czech political scene became governed by fears and and politics of identity, which was confirmed by November 2017 that have completely shuffled the cards. It seems as if the system of ‘traditional’ parties came under attack from a new type of populist “catch ’em all” movement ANO (Associate nespokojených občanů, Association of Unsatisfied Citizens), led by the wealthy entrepreneur Andrej Babiš. Another surprise was the success of Tomio Okamura’s far-right party SPD (Strana přímé demokracie, Direct democracy party), which became the fourth largest faction in the parliament after breaking the records of highest election gains for far-right parties. More surprises, such as the Pirate Party becoming the third largest faction in the parliament, came as well.
Being boycotted by the traditional parties, the winner of the elections, Andrej Babiš attempts to seek support from the Communist Party as well as the far-right Direct Democracy Party. While these two parties should be technically standing at the opposite sides of the political barricade, their antiglobalist, anti-American, nationalist, conservative and conspiracist attitudes bring them close together. Using data from a preliminary study on negative social trends, made for the Czech-Bavarian project “Migration and Integration in the Czech-Bavarian Border Region”, my presentation will provide an overview of the contemporary Czech politics and society in order to provide some explanations for the recent trends and shifts. Special focus will be paid to the pathological trends, such as political extremism, Islamophobia or conspiracism and their possible role in the last elections.
Dr. Zbyněk Tarant, graduated at the University of West Bohemia in the field of Cultural Anthropology of the Near East, and did his PhD on the history of holocaust memory and its institutions in the State of Israel and the USA. Since more than ten years he also studies contemporary antisemitism. His specialty is monitoring of cyber-hate and analysis of emerging threats in the contemporary Central European antisemitism.