Czech Social Democrats Increase Lead Over Civic Democrats Before Elections

The Czech Social Democrats, who pushed through a last-minute increase in welfare spending in the 2010 state budget, widened their lead over the Civic Democrats less than three weeks before general elections, a poll showed.

Support for the Social Democrats dropped to 26.2 percent in April, from 27 percent in the previous month, Prague-based polling company Median said today in a statement. The Civic Democrats fell to 19 percent, from 21.2 percent in March.

As many as eight parties have a chance to enter the parliament, according to the poll before elections scheduled for May 28 and May 29. The country is now being run by a caretaker government which took power after the Social Democrats ousted a Civic Democrat-led Cabinet in a no-confidence vote in March 2009 while the Czech Republic held the European Union presidency.

The next government will have to cut the budget deficit to within the EU’s limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2013, from 5.9 percent last year when the economy fell into the worst recession since the end of communism 20 years ago.

The Median poll was taken between April 2 and May 1, after the Civic Democrats replaced Chairman Mirek Topolanek as the leader for the election following his comments that some party members said were derogatory to Jews, Christian and homosexuals. Topolanek stepped down as party chief on April 12.

The Communist Party placed third with 13.3 percent in the survey, followed by the TOP 09 party of former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg with 10.7 percent. Veci Verejne, a group that is currently not represented in parliament and campaigns for curbing state administration had 7.6 percent.

The Christian Democrats polled 7.5 percent, and Strana Prav Obcanu-Zemanovci, a new party of a former prime minister Milos Zeman, had 6.8 percent. The Green Party was below the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation, while the margin of error meant it may still gain seats in the legislature.

The survey of 914 people had a margin of error ranging from about 1.5 percentage points for smaller parties to as much as 3.5 percentage points for large factions, Median said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Laca in Prague at placa@bloomberg.net

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