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Month: January, 2013

What Next for Britain’s Pro-Europeans?

One of the problems with political science is that publishing books and articles takes time, but events move quickly.  In 2005, Stefano Bartolini wrote an influential monograph, Restructuring Europe, which  argued that the ‘Europe issue’ had complicated the internal politics of Member States, but had not yet fundamentally changed party competition.

Cameron’s ‘Europe speech‘, finally delivered on 23rd January 2013, and the anaemic response of Britain’s other major parties, whose leaders ostensibly support the EU but are not willing to expend any political capital making a positive case, have finally forced the issue.  Polls show that, while 40% of the British population would vote to leave the EU, 37% would vote to stay.

Britain already has an influential anti-European party, UKIP.  Having, until now, benefited from the tacit (if unenthusiastic) support of the existing political elite, the pro-European lobby has had less incentive to create a formal political movement.

The first-past-the-post electoral system inevitably acts as a straitjacket during Westminster elections.  However, if the anti-European jungle drums continue to beat louder, it seems only a matter of time before the pro-Europeans organise, perhaps in advance of the June 2014 European elections.

Alison Smith is a lecturer in Comparative Government and tutor in European Politics at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.  You can follow her on twitter @AliFionaSmith.

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Czech Presidential Election: The Count is Almost Finished

With more than 90% of the vote counted, it now looks certain that the second round of the Czech Republic’s presidential election will be a battle between the veteran leftist, Milos Zeman, and the country’s aristocratic foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg.  Zeman currently has 24.67% of the vote. Schwarzenberg is hot on his tail with 22.12%.  Former Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, who was long tipped to make the run-off against Zeman, but had a torrid final week after poor debate performances, trails with 16.72%.

The run-off will be held on 25/26 January.

The Race for Prague Castle Heats Up

For months, the Czech Republic’s first presidential election looked like a straight fight between two former Prime Ministers, Jan Fischer and Milos Zeman.  However, the field has opened up in the final week.

While Zemen, a veteran leftist, looks certain to make it through to the final round, Fischer, a technocratic former statistician, has looked lacklustre, spectacularly underperforming in the public debates.  As one commentator put it, ‘emptiness surfaced behind trained gestures‘.

The Czech Republic bans opinion polls in the closing days of the campaign, making predictions difficult.  However, the final poll on Monday suggested that Fischer’s support had fallen to 16.2%, while the support of Karel Schwarzenberg, the country’s aristocratic foreign minister, had risen to 14.2%.

Although still in third place, Schwarzenberg’s campaign has gained momentum, having picked up support from two quarters: those who like neither Zeman nor Fischer; and those on the centre-right who now doubt whether Fischer will be a viable candidate against Zeman in the second round, which is due to be held on 25th-26th January.

Political Developments will keep you informed as the results come in.

Countdown to First Czech Presidential Elections