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Parliamentary opposition in times of change and crisis: the case of Czech Republic

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Conflict
Political Parties
Quantitative
Petra Guasti
Charles University
Petra Guasti
Charles University
Zdenka Mansfeldová
Institute of Sociology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
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Abstract

Based on a large volume of original data on voting behaviour in the Czech parliament, in the period between 2003 and 2013, this paper analyses the dynamics of the Czech opposition both prior and during the economic crisis. This offers us a unique opportunity to analyse the degree to which the behaviour of parliamentary opposition changed both over time and in various political set-ups (centre-left, centre-right and caretaker governments). The span of the dataset, which includes numerous changes of governing coalitions, will allow us to analyse: the general dynamics of government-opposition relations over time; the occasion in which the opposition cooperates with the government, as well as the influence of internal and external factors on the opposition´s behaviour; and the contexts under which unified opposition emerges. Notwithstanding these changes, an important constant of the Czech parliament is the coexistence of two types of opposition – mainstream opposition, with parties only temporarily out of power, and permanent opposition, yet always represented in parliament. Prior to EU accession, the governments were able to rely on support of the population for the EU integration and the EU leverage for adopting legislation related to the acquis: this exercised additional pressure on mainstream opposition to support the legislative initiative of the government. After the accession, and in particular during the economic crisis, the societal support for the government dropped significantly. This was an additional incentive for the mainstream opposition to exercise non-cooperative behaviour. Beside this complex context, there is a declining support for “embedded” parties and an increasing level of fluctuation of new parties into the legislature – party system is in flux and public support in sharp decline. After positive and relatively stable development during the transformation years, this troublesome development makes the Czech Republic an interesting case for studying the roles and behaviours of parliamentary opposition.