After World War II, the political system in Czechoslovakia was greatly affected by the introduction of a Soviet-style Communist regime, as it was in the other countries of central and eastern Europe. The system of power was distorted. In effect this imbalance meant that the three branches of power necessary for democratic development – executive, legislative and judicial – were substituted by a unified Communist power. Its power was based on the constitution and for forty years it ruled all layers of social and political life throughout the country with the help of oppressive institutions. After February 1948, the Communist Party became the only autonomous political entity. It allowed a few other parties to exist within the so-called National Front; however, these parties held no real power and were created to provide an outward image of Czechoslovakia as a democratic state.
After the revolutionary events of November 1989 which brought about the downfall of the Communist regime, the entire country faced the uneasy task of resuming its pre-Communist traditions and building a democratic political system. A wide diversity of political parties were well-established even before the break-up of Czechoslovakia on December 31, 1992. The constitution of the Czech Republic, which became valid on the day of the birth of the new state, explicitly defined civil rights, the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of power, and the independence of the judiciary.
Elected for a term of five years by a joint session of both chambers of Parliament, the President may serve a maximum of two successive terms in office. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Presidential power is limited; the most important is the right to veto any bill which has already been passed by Parliament, with the exception of constitutional bills. This power is void in times of constitutional or other political crises.
The Parliament consists of two chambers – the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It passes all bills valid in the territory of the Czech Republic and expresses approval of important international treaties; i.e. those concerning human rights and basic liberties, political treaties, and general economic treaties. It decides the most important acts of state, such as declaring war or approving the deployment of foreign armies on Czech soil.
Chamber of Deputies
The Chamber of Deputies is made up of 200 deputies who are elected for a term of four years. The President can dissolve the Chamber of Deputies in cases outlined in the constitution. Political lobbies, ongoing parliamentary commissions and committees operate in the historical building which houses the chamber.
The Senate is made up of 81 senators elected for six-year terms. Every two years one-third of the Senate’s seats come up for re-election. The Senate cannot be dissolved.
A resolution by a parliamentary chamber is passed by a clear majority of deputies or senators present. A constitutional bill or an international treaty must be passed by a 60% majority of the total number of deputies and senators present.
The Legislative Process:
Bills are sent to the Chamber of Deputies. The right of legislative initiative is possessed by a deputy, a group of deputies, the Senate, the Cabinet or local or regional cabinet representatives.
A bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies is sent to the Senate which has the power to veto it, send it back to the Chamber of Deputies with amendments, or table the bill.
Elections to the Legislative Bodies:
Elections to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate take place by secret ballot on the basis of general, equal and direct voting. The Chamber of Deputies is elected on the basis of proportional representation. Political parties must obtain five percent of the popular vote in order to gain seats in the chamber. The Senate is elected on the basis of majority vote.
All citizens of the Czech Republic over 18 years of age have the right to vote for representatives in both chambers of Parliament. Candidates for the Chamber of Deputies must be over 21 years of age, while candidates for the Senate must be over 40 years of age.
The Government is the supreme body of executive power. It Consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers, and coordinates activities of the ministries and the central bodies of the state administration and manages the state administration throughout the territory of the state. The Government has exclusive legislative initiative in terms of the state budget.
The Supreme Audit Office
The Supreme Audit Office is an independent controlling agency which audits the management of state property and the implementation of the state budget. It audits the ways in which the resources of the state budget of the Czech Republic are created and used.
The Czech National Bank
This is the central state bank of the Czech Republic.
Based on law, the main goal of the bank is to preserve the stability and purchasing power of the currency, and while pursuing this goal, the bank is not dependent on the cabinet of the Czech Republic. The president and executives of the bank are appointed by the Head of State.
The Constitutional Court
The Constitutional Court was set up to protect constitutional rights. It consists of 15 judges who are appointed by the President – with the consent of the Senate – for a term of ten years. In their decisions judges are bound only by constitutional laws, international treaties, and by a law designating the proceedings of the constitutional court.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the supreme judicial body in all matters within the jurisdiction of the courts, except those within the jurisdiction of the constitutional court or the supreme administrative court. The judges are bound only by law and they are in a position to decide whether other legal regulations are in accordance with the law.