Czech members of parliament are being “named and shamed” for their low turnout at work by a group of citizens with statistical and IT know-how. The non-profit initiative KohoVolit.eu, which translates as “whom to vote for,” tracked the voting record of members of the lower house of Parliament from their election in June 2010 until the end of that year.
The new TOP 09 party, a member of the three-party center-right government that is dedicated to maintaining budget discipline and headed by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, comes out best from the survey. One of TOP 09’s members, Patricie Kotalíková, scored the best for attendance (99.6 percent) with another three party members in the top 10.
Schwarzenberg himself — as he is frequently out of the county on official trips — came bottom of the attendance ranking for the 200-member lower house, with an attendance record of 22.5 percent.
Other government ministers also scored poorly, but can point to their demanding duties as an excuse. Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) was placed at 176 on the rankings with a 57.3 percent attendance rate. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) was ranked at 171 with a 60.1 percent attendance.
Radek John, the chairman of Public Affairs (VV), the smallest party in the ODS-TOP 09-VV coalition government, who was Minister of Interior during the period examined by KohoVolit.eu, came in at 157 on the rankings with a 65.5 percent turnout at lower house votes.
Party-wise, the biggest party in the lower house and main opposition party, the Social Democrats (ČSSD), turned in a poor overall attendance performance with most of their lawmakers in the lower half of the rankings.
Party leader Bohulslav Sobotka had little to boast about with a 59.6 percent attendance record and 173 placing. His main rival for the party leadership in a March vote, South Moravian regional governor Michal Hašek, fared even worse with a 44.6 percent attendance, putting him solidly among the worst 10 lawmakers in terms of absenteeism.
Another well-known figure in the worst 10 is former ODS Prague mayor Pavel Bém. He also came in for criticism for his absences when he held that office — for example, when he took several months off work to climb Mount Everest.
The ČSSD’s deputy chairman of the party grouping in the chamber, Jeroným Tejc, told the weekly Týden that members’ attendance would be a subject for discussion with slackers warned that they should alter their working habits so that they could turn up to vote more often.
That is precisely the goal that a co-founder of the KohoVolit.eu initiative, Michal Škop, is seeking. “As taxpayers, we are paying considerable sums of money to our representatives. Our initiative aims to make it visible when a deputy is hardly turning up — or not turning up at all,” he told Czech Position.
Škop, who studied demography and statistics at Prague’s Charles University and now works as a computer programmer, said he considered a 90 percent attendance record to be “respectable.” That target would on the 2010 figures have been achieved by just over a fifth of Czech lawmakers.
Some leeway should be given to those lawmakers who had ministerial or other responsibilities. “In the case of the Foreign Minister [Schwarzenberg], it is pretty understandable that he cannot be there a lot of the time,” Škop said.
But he said that Czech lower house lawmakers generally came out worse as regards attendance when compared with colleagues in Poland and Slovakia although the parliamentary voting systems and work demands are similar.
The KohoVolit.eu initiative, which also covers the Czech Senate, the European Parliament, and the parliament of neighboring Slovak, will continue to focus on lawmakers’ attendance in 2011. The project is nonpolitical and does not receive any state or EU funds with most of the work carried out by a small band of volunteers and a small grant given by the Prague branch of the Open Society Fund (OSF) in 2010.