Prague - Czechs will be electing their representatives in the European Parliament (EP) for a third time in history on Friday and Saturday, and the voting will be also a test of Czech citizens´ satisfaction with the performance of parties in Czech Parliament, particularly the ruling ones.
A record 38 parties and movements have fielded 849 candidates in the elections, which translates into more than 40 contenders for one mandate.
Political scientists do not expect more than the usual one third of Czech voters to come to the polls despite calls for a higher participation.
Compared with the previous European elections, EU themes overweighed the purely domestic ones in the campaign this year, which may be due to that the EP election is taking place a mere seven months after the Czech general election.
The parties´ promises during the campaign included an improvement in drawing European subsidies and harmonisation of the living standards and food quality.
Some parties also focused on criticism of the EU regulations and immigration policy.
The EP promoted the elections under the motto "Why it is different this time," pointing to that it will have greater powers under the Lisbon Treaty.
The elections are also different for the Czech Republic due to the participation of new groupings, which previously succeeded in last October´s early general election.
This is mainly true of the government ANO 2011 movement whose popularity is now greater than the Social Democrats´ (CSSD) who formed the current coalition government after the elections.
The duel of the two parties in the EP election will draw a great attention even though their representatives say the outcome is not likely to impact domestic politics.
The Civic Democrats (ODS) can hardly hope to defend the victory they scored in the 2009 EP election after the fall of then party chairman Petr Necas´s government last June.
The ODS has based its campaign on rejection of the planned introduction of the euro in the Czech Republic, which is at variance with the plans of the CSSD that would like to defend its current seven EP seats.
The Communists (KSCM) also may defend the four seats they have in the EP now.
The remaining two seats of MEPs are now occupied by the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).
The remaining 34 groupings, including ANO, the former government TOP 09, which is now in opposition, and the new movement Dawn of Direct Democracy, can only gain in the elections because this will be their premiere.
Other parties running in the election include the pro-European Greens, the anti-European Party of Free Citizens and a number of groupings, some of whose members are current or former lawmakers.
The voting in the Czech Republic will start at 14:00 CEST on Friday and end at 22:00. It will continue at 8:00 on Saturday and end at 14:00. The results will only be announced late at night on Sunday, when the last EU voting country, Italy, will close its polling stations.