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Czechoslovak federal election, 1961
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Previous election
1957 ← 
Next election
 → 1964

All 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies
151 seats needed for a majority
All 150 seats to the Chamber of Nations
9–10 June 1961
First party Second party
Václav Majer Miloslav Rechcígl, senior
Leader Václav Majer Miloslav Rechcígl
Party ČSSD RS
Seats won
87 / 300
85 / 300
Seat change 18 16
Popular vote 2,323,596 2,263,308
Percentage 28.26% 27.52%
ČSFR Federal Chamber of Deputies election 1961 (Munich Goes Sour)
Distribution of seats following the 1961 federal election to the Chamber of Deputies.
Incumbent Prime Minister
Václav Majer
ČSSD
Prime Minister-elect
Miloslav Rechcígl Sr.
RS

Federal elections were held in Czechoslovakia on 9 and 10 June 1961. All 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and all 150 seats in the Chamber of Nations were up for election, with MPs elected by party-list proportional representation and all Senators elected by first-past-the-post voting. The Republican Party and the centre-right opposition, led by Miloslav Rechcígl, ousted the incumbent centre-left government of Václav Majer.

Following the exposure of Foreign Minister Zdeněk Fierlinger as an agent of the KGB, the Soviet secret service, Majer lost a no-confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies on 5 May 1961. The measure passed with 152 votes to 146. As a result, early elections were announced just six months before the end of the government's term.

Background

The previous parliamentary term had begun in December 1957 when Majer led the centre-left coalition to a majority of 22 seats. The election had been precipitated by a motion of no confidence against Jozef Lettrich's cabinet on 29 October 1957, following the SDVP's refusal to support support the government's budget proposal. The motion passed by nine votes (159 to 141), triggering a general election six months before the end of the government's term. As a result, Majer formed his fourth cabinet on 20 December 1957, which was a minority government comprising the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and the Czechoslovak National Social Party (ČSNS).

On 4 April 1961 the Fierlinger Affair broke when Czechoslovak police arrested Foreign Minister Zdeněk Fierlinger. Fierlinger had been a spy for the KGB, the Soviet secret service, and had been under surveillance by the FBIS (Federální bezpečnostní informační služba, Federal Security Information Service) for a year. While Majer was not implicated in the affair, he underestimated the explosiveness of the affair.

The non-socialist opposition now demanded that also the Minister of the Interior, Bohumil Laušman be dismissed, which prime minister Majer refused. Majer forced to appear before the parliament and answer for his cabinet's actions. The opposition, who now had lost confidence in the prime minister, stated their support for a motion of no confidence pushed by the Republican Party. For understandable reasons, all of the Communist and most ČSSD and ČSNS representatives were not inclined to support the vote, meaning the opposition only had 148 votes and thus were three votes short of passing the motion. However, on 17 April 1961 four ČSSD deputies, who belonged to the right-wing of the Social Democrats and were ardent anti-communists, chose to side with the opposition and to support the motion, thereby indicating a parliamentary majority for the motion of no confidence. As a result, Majer lost the no-confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies on 18 April 1961. The measure passed with 152 votes to 146.

Electoral system

The 300 members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected from 14 multi-member constituencies (each usually electing between five and 25 members) using open list proportional representation, in which they could give preferential votes for up to four candidates on their chosen list. Seats were allocated using the d'Hondt method, with an electoral threshold a 4% threshold for single parties and 8% threshold for coalitions (requirements waived for national minorities). The members of the Chamber of Nations were elected using first-past-the-post voting in 150 single-member districts; 75 in each republic. To be included on a ballot, a senate candidate had to present 2000 signatures of support from their constituents. Should a party have 151 or more deputies in the Chamber of Deputies, it has an absolute majority and can thus govern autonomously, without the need for support from other parties. The constitution can be amended with a super majority of two-thirds, or 301 deputies.

The Czechoslovak constitution states that elections to the Federal Assembly must be held every four years. Polling days in Czechoslovakia are Friday and Saturday, and voters could submit their ballots on either day. The exact date of the election was to be chosen by the President, who is obliged to call it at least 60 days prior to the expiration of the electoral term and ending on the day of its expiration. If the Chamber of Deputies were dissolved, elections should be held within 60 days of its dissolution. On 21 April 1961, President Štefan Osuský dissolved the Federal Assembly and announced 9 and 10 June 1961 as election days.

Parties

The parties that had been elected to the Federal Assembly in the previous elections and still were represented had the right to participate in the federal elections - that is, they were automatically eligible for the election.

New parties wishing to participate in the election should send their application to the Minister of the Interior by 12:00 p.m. fifteen days before the election. Together with the application papers, the party had to submit a number of signatures corresponding at least to 1/300th of all valid votes cast at the last federal elections. In that election, 7,825,014 valid votes were cast, and a new party should therefore collect at least 26,080 signatures to become eligible for the election. Altogether 14 parties have managed to get on the ballot in at least one state and could therefore (theoretically) earn proportional representation in the Federal Assembly.

Parliamentary parties

Name Ideology Leading
candidate(s)
1957 result
Votes (%) Seats
ČSSD Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party
Československá strana sociálně demokratická
Social democracy Václav Majer 33.67%
105 / 300
RS Republican Party
Republikánská strana
Social conservatism Miloslav Rechcígl 25.0%
69 / 300
ČSL/SĽS ČSL Czechoslovak People's Party
Československá strana lidová
Christian democracy František Hála 8.78%
27 / 300
SĽS Slovak People's Party
Slovenská ľudová strana
Jozef Tiso 6.17%
19 / 300
KSČ Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Komunistická strana Československa
Communism
Marxism–Leninism
Rudolf Slánský 8.31%
25 / 300
ČSNS Czechoslovak National Social Party
Československá strana národně sociální
Socialist nationalism
Democratic socialism
Alois Neuman 7.39%
22 / 300
LDS Liberal Democratic Party
Liberální demokratická strana
Liberalism Karel Chalupa 4.78%
13 / 300
SDVP Sudeten German People's Party
Sudetendeutsche Volkspartei
German minority interests Erwin Zajiček 4.31%
13 / 300
MNP Hungarian National Party
Magyar Nemzeti Párt–Maďarská národní strana
Hungarian minority politics János Esterházy 2.44%
7 / 300

Campaign

While federal elections were scheduled to be held in November 1961, the collapse of Majer's government and the early election meant that the Social Democrats had not really had time to prepare their campaign. The Social Democrats ran its campaign with the slogan "You know ČSSD government works". Their manifesto offered voters an increase in pensions and the municipalisation of rented housing. Majer had led the government since December 1957. His premiership was popular and had solid advantages such as a steadily growing economy with a very low unemployment, with most Czechoslovaks felt clearly more prosperous and more secure than in 1957.

The Republican Party and the opposition, however, had united by a prime minister-candidate, Miloslav Rechcígl, whose mild manner and compromise-seeking style were reminiscent of that of Antonín Švehla. To promote the Republican manifesto, Prosperity for Tomorrow, Rechcígl decided to appeal to the voters both in person and by capitalising on the new medium of television that was transforming the public's perception of politics. In 1961, Czech and Slovak households altogether already possessed over one million television sets.

Results

Chamber of Deputies


Summary of the 9–10 June 1961 Chamber of Deputies of Czechoslovakia election results
ČSFR Federal Chamber of Deputies election 1961 (Munich Goes Sour)
Parties Votes  % ± Seats ±
Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) 2,323,596 28.26% 5.41% 87 18
Republican Party (RS) 2,263,308 27.52% 5.21% 85 16
ČSL/SĽS Czechoslovak People's Party (ČSL) 815,960 9.92% 1.09% 30 3
Slovak People's Party (SĽS) 566,880 6.89% 0.72% 21 2
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) 597,224 7.26% 1.05% 22 3
Czechoslovak National Social Party (ČSNS) 556,864 6.77% 0.62% 20 2
Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) 416,035 5.06% 0.28% 15 2
Sudeten German People's Party (SDVP) 356,614 4.34% 0.07% 13 0
Hungarian National Party (MNP) 205,748 2.50% 0.06% 7 0
Other parties 60,455 0.74% 0.06% 0 0
Blank or invalid votes 60,573 0.73%
Total (Turnout: 90.22% – electorate: 9,115,013) 8,162,684 100.0% 300
Turnout in the Czech Federative Republic – electorate: 6,582,200 5,947,018 90.35%
Turnout in the Slovak Federative Republic – electorate: 2,532,813 2,276,239 89.87%


Popular Vote
ČSSD
  
28.26%
RS
  
27.52%
ČSL
  
9.92%
KSČ
  
7.26%
ČSNS
  
6.77%
SĽS
  
6.89%
LDS
  
5.06%
SDVP
  
4.34%
MNP
  
2.50%


22 87 20 7 13 30 21 85 15
KSČ ČSSD ČSNS MNP SDVP ČSL SĽS RS LDS

Results by state

Flag of the Czech Federal Republic (MGS).svg Czechia Slovakia Slovakia
#  % #  %
ČSSD 1,779,526 30.14% 544,069 24.09%
RS 1,666,165 28.22% 597,143 26.44%
ČSL 815,960 13.82% N/A N/A
SĽS N/A N/A 566,880 25.10%
KSČ 446,357 7.56% 150,867 6.68%
ČSNS 491,820 8.33% 65,044 2.88%
LDS 302,885 5.13% 113,150 5.01%
SDVP 356,614 6.04% N/A N/A
MNP N/A N/A 205,748 9.11%
Other parties 44,872 0.76% 15,584 0.69%
Blank or invalid votes 42,819 0.72% 17,755 0.78%

Chamber of Nations


Summary of the 9–10 June 1961 Chamber of Nations election results
ČSFR Federal Chamber of Nations election 1961 (WFAC)
Parties Votes  % of votes Seats ±
Flag of the Czech Federal Republic (MGS).svg Czechia
Republican Party (Republikánská strana) (RS) 1,629,923 30.12% 23 1
Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (Československá strana sociálně demokratická) (ČSSD) 1,565,527 28.93% 21 2
Czechoslovak People's Party (Československá strana lidová) (ČSL) 725,132 13.40% 10 0
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunistická strana Československa) (KSČ) 492,440 9.10% 7 0
Czechoslovak National Social Party (Československá strana národně sociální) (ČSNS) 426,962 7.89% 6 0
Liberal Democratic Party (Liberální demokratická strana) (LDS) 314,404 5.81% 5 1
Sudeten German People's Party (Sudetendeutsche Volkspartei) (SDVP) 257,043 4.75% 3 0
Invalid or blank votes 52,453 0.96% N/A N/A
Total in the Czech Federative Republic (Turnout: 83.01% – electorate: 6,582,200) 5,463,884 100.00% 75
Slovakia Slovakia
Republican Party (Republikánská strana) (RS) 589,231 29.20% 24 1
Slovak People's Party (Slovenská ľudová strana) (SĽS) 510,734 25.31% 19 3
Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (Československá strana sociálně demokratická) (ČSSD) 501,653 24.86% 18 5
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Komunistická strana Československa) (KSČ) 177,173 8.78% 7 0
Liberal Democratic Party (Liberální demokratická strana) (LDS) 94,035 4.66% 4 1
Hungarian National Party (Magyar Nemzeti Párt–Maďarská národní strana) (MNP) 82,331 4.08% 3 0
Czechoslovak National Social Party (Československá strana národně sociální) (ČSNS) 62,757 3.11% 0 0
Invalid or blank votes 21,001 1.03% N/A N/A
Total in the Slovak Federative Republic (Turnout: 80.50% – electorate: 2,532,813) 2,038,914 100.00% 75
Total (Turnout: 0.00% – electorate: 9,115,013) 100.0% 150

Aftermath

Government formation

Prime Minister Václav Majer, after having led Czechoslovakia for over a total of eight years, conceded defeat. President Osuský then tasked Republican chairman Miloslav Rechcígl with the formation of a new government. Majer's cabinet would remain in office as a caretaker government until 8 July, when Rechcígl's cabinet would be sworn in. Rechcígl would head a coalition government comprising the Republican Party, the Czechoslovak People's Party and the Slovak People's Party, with the Liberal Democrats providing parliamentary support.

See also