Czech Republic History

Czech Republic History

According to localcollegeexplorer, the Czech Republic was born, at the same time as the Slovak Republic, on 1 January 1993, following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the final stage of the political and social crisis that had hit the country after the fall of the communist regime. In the context of this crisis, the traditional contrasts between Czechs and Slovaks had re-emerged: while a growing part of the Slovak political world demanded a transformation of the country in a confederal sense, the main exponents of the Czech parties stressed the opportunity to maintain a certain degree of centralization, such as to ensure the rapid transition to a market economy. During 1992, faced with the impasse created on the political and institutional level, it was precisely the Czech local government, led by the liberalist V. Klaus, to promote with greater determination the prospect of the dissolution of the Czechoslovakian state. The separation of the Czech regions from the most backward Slovakia was in fact seen as a step that would facilitate the economic transformation of the former, while at the same time favoring their integration into Western economic, political and military organizations (primarily NATO and the EU)., a priority objective of the Czech government.

Simultaneously with the proclamation of the new state, a new Constitution entered into force; approved in December 1992, it provided for the introduction of a parliamentary type system, with a bicameral parliament consisting of a Chamber of Deputies of 200 members, elected for four years, and a Senate of 81 members, in office for six years. The Czech National Council, a local parliament within the federation, assumed the functions of the Chamber of Deputies, while the election of the 81 members of the Senate was postponed several times (it took place for the first time in November 1996). V. Havel, former president of the Czechoslovakian federation, was elected president of the Republic (January 1993), with a four-year term renewable only once – under the new Constitution – while Klaus, prime minister of the Czech federated republic since June 1992, maintained the leadership of the government, expressed by a center-right coalition.

In addition to the Civic Democratic Party, led by the Prime Minister and expression of the new emerging bourgeoisie, which with 76 deputies was the main political force, the government was composed of the Civic Democratic Alliance, the Christian Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union. The first, born as the Civic Democratic Party from a split to the right of the Civic Forum, was notable for the nationalist tones adopted during the process of separation from Slovakia and for the demand for a radical anti-communist purge of the state administration, and it was represented in the Chamber by 14 deputies. Of the two Christian parties, the first, already allied with the Civic Democratic Party for the 1992 elections, merged into this in April 1996, while the second, in coalition with the People’s Party, rooted in particular in the rural areas of Moravia, counted on 15 deputies in the Chamber.

In the months following the separation from Slovakia, relations with Slovakia, regulated on the basis of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty signed in December 1992, were affected by some disputes regarding the division of federal property; furthermore, a few months earlier than established, separate coins were introduced (February 1993), the Czech crown and the Slovak crown. Internally, the executive’s program continued to be centered on the policy of transforming the economy in a liberal sense: the rapid privatization of the productive apparatus and services constituted the priority of government action, alongside the creation of a new banking system. and the adoption of incentives for foreign investments. The successes obtained initially on a macro level (inflation went from 20 % in 1993 to 10 % in 1994 ; unemployment remained around the 3, 5 % up to 1995 and GDP grew by 2, 6 % in 1994 and 4 % in 1995) earned the country, first among the Central-Eastern European states, entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (1995). However, as of the end of 1995 the economic situation began to reveal growing signs of imbalance (increase in the trade balance deficit and state budget deficit), which contributed to the crisis of the model of economic transformation promoted by the Klaus government. Furthermore, the reform of the social security and pension system and the privatization of the health sector had created growing popular discontent: the first protest actions against the government’s economic policy took place in the spring of 1995, but it was mainly with the elections for the Chamber of Deputies of June 1996 that the growth of consensus for the opposition forces was manifested.

The Civic Democratic Party, with 29, 6 % of the vote, won 68 seats and remained the largest party, but the most significant result was that of the previous Social Democratic Party from 6, 5 % in 1992 to 26, 4 %, and won 61 seats, while as the third political force stated the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia that with 10, 3 % of the votes obtained a parliamentary representation of 13 deputies. The Christian Democratic Union and the Civic Democratic Alliance scored 8 respectively, 1 % and 6, 4 % of the votes and, with 18 seats for the first and 13 for the second, they brought the total number of seats of the parties of the ruling coalition to 99. A relative success for the latter came with the election of the Senate, held the following November: about 81 total seats, 32 went to the Civic Democratic Party (which won the 49, 2 % of the votes), 13 Christian Democratic Union (with 10, 7 % of the votes) and 7 to the Democratic Civic Alliance (5, 2 %), while the Social Democratic Party is adjudicated on 31, 8 % of the vote and 25 seats.

Meanwhile, the alliance between the coalition parties was confirmed in July 1996 Klaus had established a minority cabinet, while the Social Democratic Party’s informal commitment to discretionally support the government led to the election of the Social Democratic leader M. Zeman as president of the Chamber of Deputies. The following months saw a progressive deterioration of the political climate in the country; source of heated conflict between government and opposition was, among other things, the decree on the restitution to the Catholic Church of part of the properties expropriated in the communist era, opposed by the Social Democratic Party. But the compactness of the ruling coalition also proved less and less solid, against the backdrop of a worsening economic conditions in the country, while the the emergence of repeated and extensive financial scandals brought to light the widespread corruption that had accompanied the privatization process. In 1997 several austerity plans were adopted, but the cuts in public spending and the freeze on wages undermined the credibility of the Klaus government, cautiously supported by the population for the economic results it had pledged to achieve.

In November 1997, while the protest against the executive’s economic policy grew, the latter was overwhelmed by the consequences of the denunciation of an alleged wrongdoing in the financing of the Civic Democratic Party and, after the exit from the government of the ministers of the two smaller parties, Klaus himself was forced to resign. In December 1997 J. Tošovský, former governor of the Czech National Bank, formed, in view of the early political elections called for June 1998, a transitional cabinet into which the Christian Democratic Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Union of freedom, born from a split between the Civic Democratic Party and the 3 senators formerly belonging to Klaus’s party. In January 1998, Havel was re-elected to the presidency of the Republic.

In addition to overcoming economic and political instability, the Tošovský cabinet program focused on preparing the country for NATO membership negotiations. The invitation to this effect, presented by the Atlantic Alliance in July 1997, had been an important step in the RC’s foreign policy: strongly oriented towards the integration of the country into Western political and military structures, the action of the Klaus government on international level was also characterized by a relative resistance to the regional integration policy, more pursued, however, by President Havel and resulted in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (December 1992) between the countries of the so-called Vyšegrad ‘group (Czechoslovakia; therefore,1993, RC and Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and, since 1996, Slovenia). Furthermore, the country’s entry into NATO (formalized in March 1999), if on the one hand it was conceived as an instrument of defense from Russia (with which a Treaty of friendship and cooperation was nevertheless signed in August 1993), on the other hand, by inserting the Czech Republic in a supra-European structure, it was seen as a protective factor from German hegemony in Europe. In fact, the Czech government worked to consolidate relations with the United States and Great Britain, while relations with the powerful neighboring state, strongly strengthened in the early nineties (Germany soon became the country’s main trading partner), continued to to be affected by some elements of tension, first of all by the Sudeten question.

Expelled from Czechoslovakia in the immediate post-war period, the Sudeten Germans, who took refuge mainly in Bavaria, constituted a powerful pressure group in Germany: in addition to the Bavarian government, also prominent representatives of the federal government had supported its main demand, that of the restitution of property confiscated by the Prague government in 1945. Prague opposed this request, offering instead the possibility for Sudeten Germans and their descendants to obtain, with the recovery of Czech citizenship, the right to participate in the privatization process. The issue, which re-emerged during the negotiations that led to the signing of a friendship treaty between Germany and Czechoslovakia (February 1992), remained blocked for a long time; finally, in January 1997, Bonn and Prague signed a Declaration of Reconciliation, containing mutual apologies for the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans in 1945. In January 1998, a fund was established to finance joint Czech-German projects in favor of the victims of Nazism. Maintaining close relations with Bonn was considered indispensable by Prague to support its candidacy for EU membership, formally advanced in January 1996 ; a negotiation process was initiated in this regard in March 1998.

Early elections for the Chamber of Deputies took place in June 1998: the Social Democratic Party, which obtained 74 seats with 32.3 % of the votes, established itself as a relative majority force and the party leader, Zeman, constituted the following July a social democratic minority government. The motion of confidence in the government passed (August) thanks to the abstention of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (11 % of the votes, 24 seats) and of the Civic Democratic Party (27.7 % of the votes and 6 3 seats), while a Voting against was expressed by the Christian Democratic Union, which with 9% of the votes had obtained a parliamentary representation of 20 deputies, and from the Union of Freedom, which had received 8.6 % of the votes and 19 seats.

Czech Republic History