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Home » Elections, Europe, Geopolitics

Geographical Patterns in the Czech Presidential Election

Submitted by on February 13, 2013 – 3:34 pm 9 Comments |  
Czech Presidential Election MapThe president of the Czech Republic occupies a largely ceremonial position, with little real power. The country’s recent presidential election, however, was a hotly contested and closely watched contest, in part because it was the first time that the office was filled through a direct election. Also of significance was the issue of historical memory, focusing on Czech relations with Germany and ethnic Germans during and immediately after World War II. The victorious candidate, Miloš Zeman, of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, cast nationalistic aspersions against his opponent Karel Schwarzenberg, noting that Schwarzenberg’s Austrian wife does not speak Czech, and insinuating that his family had collaborated with the Nazis during the war. Schwarzenberg’s aristocratic German background—he is deemed both prince and duke, and is styled “His Serene Highness”—helped sustain such accusations. Significantly, the row began when Schwarzenberg declared that the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the war would be considered a war crime by today’s standards. Such a statement did not go over well among Czech nationalists, although it would probably be supported by most experts in the field.

Czeck Population Density MapIn the end, Zeman won the election handily, taking almost 55 percent of the vote. The geographical patterns of the election, however, were rather curious, at least if seen from the perspective of Western Europe or of the United States. The more economically conservative candidate, Schwarzenberg, did very well in the  more cosmopolitan cities, particularly Prague, whereas the socialist candidate, Zeman, triumphed not just in the industrial city of Ostrava, but also in smaller towns and in the more rural parts of the country. Such a pattern is understandable, however, if one looks at the two candidate’s social and cultural positions. Zeman may be a member of a vaguely socialist party, but he takes populist positions on a number of issues that would be regarded by many as highly conservative. He doubts, for example, that human activities could cause global warming, and he has referred to Islam as the “the enemy … anti-civilization.” The free-market TOP 09 party of Schwarzenberg, in contrast, has adopted a pro-EU position, and is relatively liberal on social and environmental issues. For these reasons, its ideology is sometimes described as one of “liberal conservatism.”

Czech Election Franz Vote MapThe first round of voting in the Czech presidential election, which featured nine candidates, revealed some interesting patterns as well. Particularly intriguing was the candidacy of Vladimír Franz, who came in fifth place, with 351,916 votes. Franz, a professor of dramatic arts and a noted composer and painter, was favored by many student groups. A colorful figure, Franz is noted not only for his avant-garde art, but also for his tattoos, which essentially cover his face. Oddly, Franz did particularly well in many rural areas of the country, particularly in the southwest, while he performed 445px-Prof._JUDr._Vladimír_Franzrelatively poorly in key urban areas such as Prague.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

    At first, I was surprised that Zeman did so well in the Sudetenland and Moravia with such a xenophobic, anti-German-speaking message, but the I realized that my mind was still in the early twentieth century. The voters in those regions now must be the descendants of the beneficiaries of that post-war ethnic cleansing.

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Yes indeed — fascinating point!

  • Beckow

    Well, it is a bit more complicated. Zeman did really well in Moravia and Northern Bohemia – the areas that have benefitted less from the EU integration. In the case of Moravia, people there are more traditional (Czech-like) than for example people in Prague or the south-west bordering on Bavaria. Zeman very explicitly run as one of them, as opposed to the cosmopolitan, globalist beneficiaries in large cities. Schwarzenberg was an ideal representative for the big-city, barely Czech-speaking, elites. He also for some complicated psychogical reasons attracted a lot of younger voters. They yearn for change, any change, and are vaguely ashamed by the Czech traditions and uncomfortable with and left-wing traditions (Zeman is a proud lifelong socialist). Sudeten question was more a symbol of this split in the country, than an actual motivator.

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Many thanks for the clarifications. Do you have any insight on the Franz voting patterns?

  • Karel Hlaváček

    In the Czech Republic is one big difference between CR and mostly West countries – in West there in countryside most of people votes right, conservative wing, and in cities they’re vote liberal, left wing, in the Czech Republic is opposite, cities – right wing and countryside – left wing, because villages and small towns don’t profits on Revolution in 1989 and a fall of communism, there was better with communists and mostly older people are nostalgic – everyone had job etc… Yes, political plurality don’t exists, but needs a normal Czech from village political plurality?

    • Karel Hlaváček

      And sorry for my english :)

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        Thank you for your comments, Karel — very interesting contrast between the West and the Czech Republic in terms of the city/countryside voting patterns! It certainly would make sense that older people find the old days more comforting… I wonder if patterns similar to those in the Czech Republic are found in other post-communist countries as well.

        And no problem about the English, we are always glad to hear from people in those regions we write about.

        • Karel Hlaváček

          Thank you for support, also older generation thinks, that state MUST take care of theyre, because of this they vote communists, they’re not able take financial care of thereself when they’re retired, in communist regime, state did everything…. State also says who can people vote – only communist party…. Right wing thinking people were in communism “evil fashists”

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            This is a very common, if self-serving, thinking.