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CEE 2023: A year in politics

The new year is upon us and with it several major political events taking place in the CEE region. We have prepared a quick summary of the key elections that will be taking place and the essential information you may need. So mark your calendars - and make sure to follow PRINCEPS Advisory for more updates on the region’s political environment throughout the year.

January 13 and 14: Czech presidential election

The Czech Republic is opening the new year with a bang, having marked the second January weekend as the date of the first round of the presidential election. The president will be elected directly, with the results of the first round published on Sunday the 15th of January. With the incumbent President Miloš Zeman reaching the end of his second and final term, voters are choosing among nine new candidates.

According to the polls, the true race will be held among three contenders: newcomers Petr Pavel and Dr Danuše Nerudová, and former prime minister Andrej Babiš. The electorate appears to be split into two major groups. The first is encompassed by steadfast supporters of Mr Babiš, often also supporters of his political party ANO. Based on a recent poll conducted by the company Behavio, the voters in question often feel disillusioned with the current state of Czech politics and the economy, as well as EU membership. Mr Babiš inspires strong emotions among voters throughout the spectrum, with 41 % of respondents listing them as “very negative”. He is therefore predicted to have a difficult time if he makes it through to the second round.

The other camp comprises voters determined to prevent Mr Babiš from winning, mostly split among the former NATO General Pavel, and the potential first female president, Dr Nerudová. Here polls indicate that Pavel is favoured most by university graduates who view him as a rational choice. Nerudová’s supporters are mostly in their thirties or younger, often university students, and drawn to her openness to diversity and varying world views.

The culminating campaign has revealed ghosts of the past haunting the top three, leading commentators to assert the country is once again electing the “lesser evil”. Consequently, visions for the future have been replaced with efforts to iron out revealed scandals. Though perhaps speaking of vision is too idealistic. All three candidates have placed their bets on slogans referring to the hard times voters are enduring, promises of calm and experienced management, and hope for a better tomorrow.

October: Ukrainian parliamentary election

Ukraine has set the date for its parliamentary election to the Verkhovna Duma for October 29. Due to the ongoing war, however, the election has commanded minimal attention with some doubting whether it will take place at all. The volatility of the situation and divergent predictions of political analysts are doing little to offer any clarity on the matter. As such meaningful forecasts cannot be provided at this time.

Follow us for a closer focus on Ukraine throughout 2023 as PRINCEPS expands its portfolio.

November: Polish parliamentary election

PRINCEPS has been closely watching the build-up to the Polish parliamentary election, as the opposition attempts to end the eight-year rule of the right-wing Law and Justice party. This has been marked by national-conservative views and legislation, scepticism towards the EU culminating in a lengthy dispute over the rule of law in the country.

The governing party still holds a comfortable lead at 37% in the current polls, 8 percentage points ahead of the largest opposition party Civic Platform and enough to secure a Sejm majority. Analysts have been entertaining the possibility of the Polish opposition adopting the “Czech method”, i.e. a coalition grouping of the opposition parties in order to beat the incumbent Law and Justice out of office. Their options are limited, however, given the diversity of the individual parties’ electorates, as well as the baggage of their political pasts. While the Civic Platform remains the largest of the lot and also most keen on contesting the upcoming election as a united bloc, it also holds the risk of alienating opposition voters who disapprove of the party’s 2007-2015 government and its former prime minister and current party leader Donald Tusk, who is among one of Poland’s least trusted politicians.

With ten months left before the votes are cast, there are too many variables involved for anyone to make concrete predictions. The opposition has made no announcements of planned coalitions so far and the current government may still receive a hit from the impacts of the cost of living crisis. What is certain, however, is that the election will be key for both the CEE region as well as the European Union at large.

As such, we find ourselves at the beginning of a year which will determine the course of CEE politics for the upcoming years. The developments in Ukraine and Poland, especially, still remain difficult to predict. By providing clarity and linking business with the political, PRINCEPS will constitute an invaluable asset both during the run-up, as well as while interpreting the results.

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