In the recent Czech presidential election – the first direct election of the head of state in the country’s history – it was reported that Czechs abroad predominantly voted for foreign minister and runner-up Karel Schwarzenberg instead of voting for the eventual winner, Milos Zeman. However, visualisations of this difference have been rather crude and concerned only the second round of elections on 25-26 January. For this blog post I have therefore re-worked the data from the Czech Electoral Commission website and created some new diagrams showing the patterns of this difference. In the end of this article I also provide a tentative explanation for why these differences exist.
When analysing and visualising electoral data for the Czech presidential election, one has to keep in mind that the expatriate vote is not particularly large (overall only 7 684 out of close to 5 million valid votes in the second round, i.e. 0.15 %, came from Czechs voting from abroad). Therefore, all percentages given in this article need to be interpreted with caution as the absolute number of votes in a country often fails to reach more than a 100.
The Expat-vote around the world
If Czechs abroad would have had to decide, Karel Schwarzenberg had clearly been elected president in the first round. More than 54 per cent of voters abroad cast their ballot for their foreign minister. Milos Zeman comes in second, yet only with 10 per cent of the vote and thus less than half of his overall result. The rank order of the other candidates is also shaken up a little but apart from the results of Jan Fischer (509 votes) and Jiri Dienstbier (461 votes) who both received about 16 percent, the differences are too small to be sensibly interpreted.
Unlike in Czech Republic where overall 4 per cent less voters found their way into a ballot station for the second round of voting, turnout among Czechs abroad increased by almost 40 per cent. And in the second round the result is even clearer than before. Schwarzenberg won by 84 per cent against Zeman. Even though Zeman was able increase his vote share by more than 50 per cent (from 10 to 15.78 per cent) and almost double the number of absolute votes, most of the additional voters and those who cast their vote for another candidate in the first round voted for Schwarzenberg.
So did Schwarzenberg actually win everywhere? Not quite. While Schwarzenberg won in most countries in the first as well as in the second round (although not always with >50 per cent), the map above shows that there are a few interesting exceptions. Kazakhstan is the only country where Zeman won the first and the second round of the presidential elections with a majority of more than 50 per cent (but as only 6 Czechs cast their ballot here, this result is negligible). Furthermore, in Ukraine, Tunisia, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Zeman also won both rounds but did not receive an absolute majority in the first round. In Syria and the Lebanon, Zeman won the second round and was runner-up in the first round. In Morocco, he did not receive any votes in the first round but apparently all those who had voted for Jiri Dienstbier switched to him while Schwarzenberg received the same number of votes.
The Expat-vote in the EU member states
The map above shows that there seems to be a divide between the Czech expatriate voters in Western Europe and the new EU member states. In the former, Schwarzenberg won a majority of votes in both rounds while in the latter, the votes for the different candidates seems to have been more evenly. To look at this in a bit more detail, I have created two more diagrams.
The diagram shows that even though there is some more variation of the first-round vote, Schwarzenberg is still the clear front-runner and often only misses the absolute majority by a few percentage points. Zeman’s vote share is remarkably low in all countries and only comes close to the overall result in Bulgaria.
In the second round Czechs who had voted for unsuccessful candidates before switched their preference to Schwarzenberg. Only in Germany, Greece and Latvia is there a considerable increase in Zeman’s vote share (it increases in a few percentage points in other countries as well, yet it only reaches close to/more than 20 per cent in Poland, Slovakia and Estonia).
A tentative explanation
I have already mentioned above that the number of expatriate voters is comparatively low, yet the difference in the overall results is still striking. In my opinion, there are three reasons which might explain the disparity between the domestic and expatriate results.
- Especially in smaller countries most of the voters are embassy staff and one can assume that they – out of loyalty or a feeling of obligation – voted for their boss, foreign minister Schwarzenberg.
- Czechs abroad are less affected by the government’s austerity measures (e.g. cutting the budget in half) which Zeman actively opposed during his electoral campaign. These voters were reached more directly by Schwarzenberg’s extensive social media campaign. Furthermore, it might also have been more appealing to them than Zeman’s old-style electoral campaign.
- Much of Zeman’s nationalist rhetoric was lost on Czechs abroad (one should assume that people living abroad should generally be less perceptive to this type of campaigning but I have not seen studies on this yet). In particular, Czech expatriates might have sympathised with Schwarzenberg simply because he also lived abroad for many years (his family left Czechoslovakia when the Communists took over).