The Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are generally respected. In recent years, the country has experienced several corruption scandals and political disputes that have hampered normal legislative activity, though institutions are responsive to corruption allegations. Illiberal rhetoric and the influence of powerful business entities in the political arena are visible.
- In November, a bill meant to strengthen the independence of Czech Television (ČT) and Czech Radio (ČRo) passed its first reading. The bill, which was then sent to a parliamentary committee, would make it more difficult to remove their board members and allow the Senate to fill some of their boards’ seats.
- In March, former prime minister Andrej Babiš was indicted over accusations that a Agrofert, firm he maintained effective ownership of, improperly benefited from European Union (EU) subsidies. The trial against Babiš and an associate began in September and was ongoing at year’s end.
- In June, prosecutors charged 11 people with bribery and other offenses related to alleged misconduct at the Prague Transport Company, including lobbyist and businessman Michal Redl. The education minister resigned over his connection to Redl in June, while intelligence chief resigned in August.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president is the head of state but holds limited powers and is directly elected to up to two five-year terms. In January 2018, incumbent Miloš Zeman of the Party of Civic Rights was reelected, defeating Jiří Drahoš in the second round.
The prime minister is the head of government and holds most executive power. Petr Fiala of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) became prime minister in November 2021, a month after parliamentary elections. Fiala leads a coalition government comprising two pro-EU electoral alliances; one is the Together coalition (SPOLU), while the other includes the Czech Pirate Party and centrist Mayors and Independents.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, are elected to four-year terms by proportional representation. The Senate, the upper chamber, which holds limited legislative power, has 81 members elected for six-year terms, with one-third up for election every two years.
The free and fair October 2021 elections saw a voter turnout of 65.4 percent. The Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party won a plurality of 72 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. SPOLU—comprising the ODS, the Christian Democratic Union–Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL), and Tradition, Responsibility, Prosperity 09 (TOP 09)—won 71. The Pirates-Mayors coalition took 37. The populist, anti-immigration Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party won 20. SPOLU and the Pirates-Mayors group formed a governing coalition, with then premier Babiš giving way that November.
The ANO performed well in local elections held in September 2022. However, it won few of the Senate seats contested in two rounds in September and October. The ANO won 3 of the Senate seats decided in October, while SPOLU won 20.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The electoral framework is robust and generally well implemented by the State Election Commission. However, the body does not always operate with transparency. In 2021, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe expressed disappointment that most of its previous recommendations went unaddressed.
The Interior Ministry was responsible for registering candidates for the January 2023 presidential election. In December 2022, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that businessman Karel Diviš was inappropriately excluded and could run. It also disqualified activist Denisa Rohanová; some of her backers were lower-house members whose mandates had ended before the election was due.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
Political parties are free to form and operate.
Presidential candidates can qualify after receiving 50,000 signatures or otherwise securing the support of 20 deputies or 10 senators. However, the law is unclear as to whether a candidacy submitted by outgoing lawmakers is permitted.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Power rotates between parties regularly. The liberal Pirates-Mayors coalition and the center-right SPOLU were both formed ahead of the October 2021 polls.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
The influence of politically connected media outlets has been a notable concern. In recent years, critics have accused Babiš of using MF Dnes and Lidove noviny, newspapers he placed in a trust during his premiership, to advance his political and business interests.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||3.003 4.004|
By law, all citizens have full political rights and electoral opportunities. However, Roma lack meaningful political representation.
Women are underrepresented in electoral politics and appointed positions. Women held 52 lower-house seats as of December 2022, a record. Women held 15 Senate seats as of September.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
Elected officials are duly installed and generally able to craft and implement policy.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Corruption remains a problem in Czech politics, but institutions have generally been responsive to corruption allegations.
In 2017, Czech police and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) began investigating Babiš following allegations of improprieties regarding the disbursement of EU subsidies to Agrofert, a company Babiš maintained de facto ownership of. In 2018, OLAF concluded that the subsidies were obtained in a manner that may have broken Czech law. Babiš was indicted in March 2022 and the trial against him and an associate began in September. Babiš, who was considering contesting the 2023 presidential election, argued that the case was politically motivated. The trial was ongoing at year’s end.
The coalition government was affected by allegations of misconduct at the Prague Transport Company in 2022. In June, prosecutors charged 11 people with bribery and other offenses, including Prague deputy mayor Petr Hlubuček, who resigned from his post. Lobbyist and businessman Michal Redl was also charged. Education Minister Petr Gazdík, who met Redl several times, resigned that same month, while Civil Intelligence Service chief Petr Mlejnek, who was also linked to Redl, left his post in August.
In November 2022, the government presented a new bill to protect whistleblowers. The bill faced criticism for potentially burdening larger companies while offering insufficient protections for whistleblowers. The measure was making its way through Parliament at year’s end.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
The government often fails to proactively publish information about procurement processes, public officials’ salaries, and public spending. Members of the public must request a time-sensitive password to view asset declarations online. Under a 2018 law, the “ultimate beneficial owners” of companies and trust funds must be disclosed in a register. That register is not available to the public, though law enforcement agencies, the courts, and several other entities can access it.
In August 2022, an amended version of the 1999 Act on Free Access to Information took effect, requiring more partially state-owned firms to abide by its provisions. The law also expands the provision of information regarding public-sector compensation.
|Are there free and independent media?||4.004 4.004|
The media operate relatively freely, and the government does not place undue restrictions on content.
Legislation protects private ownership of media outlets, but concerns remain about the extent to which the media is controlled by wealthy business figures. Critics had accused Babiš’s newspapers of providing biased coverage and acting as tools to advance his political interests, though government pressure on the media sector has declined since he left office.
The independence of publicly owned ČT was threatened under the Babiš-led ANO government, which unsuccessfully attempted to appoint new members to ČT’s board and unseat its director. In November 2022, a bill meant to strengthen the independence of ČT and ČRo passed its first reading. The bill, which was then sent to a parliamentary committee, would make it more difficult to remove ČT and ČRo board members and would empower the Senate to fill some of their boards’ seats.
Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because government pressure on and influence over the media has decreased since Andrej Babiš, a media magnate who retained control over several private outlets, left the premiership in late 2021.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||3.003 4.004|
The government generally upholds freedom of religion. Tax benefits and financial support are provided to registered religious groups. In 2012, the government passed a law to facilitate the return of land confiscated from churches by the former communist regime. In 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that churches cannot be taxed for returned land.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is respected. Ceremonial presidential approval is required for academic positions.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
People are generally able to express controversial or political opinions without fear of surveillance or retribution.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice, and demonstrations take place frequently and without incident.
Protests took place peacefully and without undue interference from the authorities during 2022. Large antigovernment protests were held in Prague in September and late October, while a large progovernment rally was held at the end of October.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Tens of thousands of registered nongovernmental organizations operate in the country, generally without official interference.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||4.004 4.004|
Trade unions and professional associations function freely, though they are weak in practice. Workers have the right to strike, though this right is limited for essential public employees, such as hospital workers and air traffic controllers.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||3.003 4.004|
The judiciary is largely independent, though its complexity and multilayered composition have led to slow delivery of judgments.
In March 2022, President Zeman pardoned an associate who received a three-year prison sentence for manipulating a public tender process. The president of the Constitutional Court and the head of the Union of Public Prosecutors criticized Zeman’s pardon.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||4.004 4.004|
The rule of law generally prevails in civil and criminal matters. Despite corruption and political pressure within law enforcement agencies, the office of the public prosecutor has become more independent in recent years.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||4.004 4.004|
The Czech Republic is free from war and insurgencies. However, prisons are overcrowded and at times unsanitary.
In June 2021, police intervened in a fight involving Stanislav Tomáš, a Romany man, pinning him to the ground while kneeling on his back; Tomáš later died in an ambulance. A wave of protests followed Tomáš’s death, prompting calls for an investigation into police brutality against Roma people. In March 2022, the General Inspectorate of Security Forces ruled that police acted lawfully when interacting with Tomáš and found no causal link between their actions and his death.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
The 2009 Antidiscrimination Act provides for equal treatment regardless of sex, race, age, disability, belief, or sexual orientation. Roma face discrimination in the job market and significantly poorer housing conditions than non-Roma, as well as occasional threats and violence from right-wing groups. Many Roma children attend ethnically segregated schools.
Women are underrepresented at the highest levels of business and suffer a large pay gap.
Anti-Muslim attitudes have increased in recent years amid a legal battle between Prague and the EU over refugee quotas. The SPD has used Islamophobic rhetoric, characterizing Islam as “incompatible with freedom and democracy.” These positions are episodically approved by some of the highest representatives of state.
Asylum seekers are routinely detained, and conditions in detention centers are generally poor. The country has been relatively welcoming to Ukrainians, however; 454,000 received temporary protection as of the end of October 2022 according to the United Nations.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education. Coronavirus-related movement restrictions were lifted in early 2022.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||4.004 4.004|
The rights to own property and operate private businesses are established in the law and upheld in practice.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||4.004 4.004|
Authorities generally do not restrict social freedoms. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognized, though same-sex partners can enter civil unions. While gender discrimination is legally prohibited, sexual harassment in the workplace appears to be fairly common.
In June 2022, a group of lawmakers proposed a civil-code amendment that would allow same-sex marriages. Another group of lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in July. Parliament did not complete the legislative process for either proposal by year’s end.
Parliament has not ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, though the government signed the treaty in 2016. In January 2022, Justice Minister Pavel Blažek requested a one-year postponement on the ratification debate. Reports show that only a small number of perpetrators of gender-based violence face criminal charges.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Human trafficking remains a problem as organized criminal groups use the country as a source, transit, and destination point; women and children are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The government has made serious efforts to fund protective services and other resources for survivors and to prosecute perpetrators.
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