Before 1996, the strongest political party in the republic was the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), headed by former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, a right-wing conservative party supporting democracy and a liberal economy. Supporters of the ODS are, in general, highly educated business people who come from Prague or other major cities. The ODS right-wing coalition with the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), Christian Democratic Union, and Christian Democratic Party, lost its majority in Parliament by two seats in the 1996 elections. Klaus and his coalition governed in the minority with the blessing of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), a socialist left-wing party that focuses on economic reform/growth in a planned economy. Supporters of the CSSD are mainly blue-collar laborers from industrial areas.
In December 1997, the ODS coalition (ODS, Christian Democratic Union/Czechoslovak People's Party or KDU-CSL, and ODA) was forced to resign due to the collapse of the union, government scandals and a worsening economy. A temporary government was formed in January 1998, led by Mr. Tošovsky´, which was given the task to prepare the country for new elections. These were held in June 1998, where the Czech Social Democratic Party gained the majority of votes (32.3%). After negotiating with the ODS, which gained 27.74% of the votes, the CSSD formed a minority government, creating the first left-oriented party since communist rule.
In the 1998 elections, the CSSD gained 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 25 seats in the Senate, while the ODS gained 63 seats in the lower house and 29 in the Senate. The Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party (KDUCSL, Catholic-conservative) took 20 seats in the Chamber and 13 in the Senate, and the Freedom Union (US, break-off party from the ODS) won 19 seats in the lower house and 3 in the Senate. Voters who became disillusioned with the bad policies of the ODS coalition took a significant number of seats away from the party, and gave them to the Freedom Union. The Communist Party won 24 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 2 seats in the Senate.
President Havel, who was reelected on 26 January 1993, did not subscribe to any political party in the interest of politcal tranquility. He appointed Milos Zeman of the majority Social Democratic Party as prime minister on 17 July 1998.
In the 2002 elections, the CSSD gained 70 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 11 seats in the Senate. The ODS took 58 seats in the Chamber and 26 in the Senate, and the Coalition, a grouping of the KDU-CSL and the United States, won 31 seats in the Chamber and 31 seats in the Senate. The Communist Party, in its strongest showing since the end of Communist rule, took 41 seats in the lower house and 3 seats in the Senate. The CSSD formed a majority government (101 seats) in the Chamber of Deputies with the Coalition. Vladimir Spidla of the CSSD became prime minister. As of March 2003, there were 11 CSSD and 6 Coalition cabinet ministers, and it was uncertain if the government would be able to maintain itself for its full four-year electoral term.
Vaclav Klaus of the ODS was inaugurated president on 7 March 2003, after parliament voted him into office in February after many rounds of voting.