From the history of the Senate

The Origins of the Senate

In 1918, as new states began to emerge from the remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, some were able to draw from a fairly rich history. Such was the situation in the Czech lands; indeed, the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic was understood as the renewal of Czech statehood, whose continuity had simply fallen victim to a violent interruption. The main differences that set the new state apart lay in the territory on which the new country was created and in its institutions; after the unfortunate experience of the past centuries, few were in favour of continuing with a monarchical form of government.

While state administrative bodies, including the country’s basic constitutional institutions, began to be created soon after 28 October 1918, they could not, in this post-revolution period, be described as fully democratic bodies. The state-governing National Committee, the members of which were appointed by political parties, held legislative and executive powers for a certain period. After the acceptance of a provisional constitution, it was transformed into the first National Assembly.

As the provisional constitution brought with it a great deal of difficulties, a Constitutional Committee set down to work in autumn 1919 with the task of shaping a more perfect document. The Constitutional Committee had 32 members representing individual political parties. A. Meissner of the Social Democrats served as the committee’s chairman, while lawyer Václav Bouček was named Parliamentary reporter. A. Švehla of the Agrarian Party and A. Meissner were the political driving forces behind the constitution. Experienced politicians such as K. Kramář and J. Malypetr also took part in the deliberations. With work on the document having proceeded at a brisk pace, Tusar’s government was able to submit a proposed constitution as early as February 1920. Debate on the draft constitution got underway on 27 February, and the constitution was accepted just before 4 a.m. on the morning of 29 February.

The new constitution was not created out of thin air, but rather had its inspiration, as can be expected, in the Austrian constitution, as well as in others, including the French and American documents. All of the countries whose constitutions served as models for the Czechoslovak effort were anchored by two-chamber parliaments (many prominent Czechs had served in the upper chamber of the Austro-Hungarian Parliament). This fact, and probably the prevailing opinion at the time that one characteristic of a mature state is the existence of a second chamber of Parliament, contributed to the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic’s being established as a two-chamber body. The body was composed of a 300-member Chamber of Deputies and 150-member Senate. A proportional system was used in elections to both chambers. Members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected for a six-year term and Senators for eight years, with both chambers dissolved in their entirety. Citizens older than 30, and who had held state citizenship for at least three years, were eligible for election to the Chamber of Deputies. Prospective Senators were required to be 45 years of age or older and to have held state citizenship for 10 years. Those older than 21 were entitled to vote in elections to the Chamber of Deputies; the minimum age requirement for Senate elections was 26. Leaders of regional governmental bodies could not be elected to Parliament. The right to vote was not only a right but also an obligation.

The first Senate elections, which took place in April 1920, saw a total of 142 Senators from 11 political parties elected. The Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party won the largest number of seats (41); following well behind were the Republican Party of the Countryside (18), the Czechoslovak People’s Party (18), and the German Social Democratic Party (16). Other parties received from three to 11 mandates. The remaining Senators were elected in two ethnic enclaves – four in the Těšín region and four in Carpathian Rus. A total of 51 of the elected Senators had been members of the National Assembly.


The First Electoral Session – 1920 - 1925

After the establishment of the Senate of the Czechoslovak Republic’s National Assembly, and the election of the first senators in the country’s history, Doctor of Law Cyril Horáček was selected to head the new body. Horáček was born on 7 November 1862 in Horní Počernice. After completing his studies at an academic secondary school, Horáček studied law and worked as a law clerk. Later he served as a secretary in the City Savings Bank in Prague. In 1899, he became an associate professor of national economics. He began teaching at Charles University as a part-time professor in 1901, and in 1907 became a full professor. In 1908, he was named dean of the Faculty of Law. In addition to engaging in a wide range of scholarly research in the field of economics, he actively devoted himself to the agrarian movement. The Czech Agrarian Party (later renamed the Republican Party of the Czechoslovak Countryside) dispatched him to the Revolutionary National Assembly. Within the committees of the National Assembly, he became actively involved in resolving the economic and financial issues of the day. In the first Czechoslovak government (Tusar’s), Horáček held the function of Finance Minister for a short period. The many difficulties he encountered at the ministry, along with his poor state of health, led him to leave the post before completing his fourth month in the job. In 1920, he was elected senator and in May of the same year was selected as Senate chairman. Horáček did not last long in this position either – under pressure from his party, he made way for Karel Prášek to assume the post in July. His work in the Senate, however, continued until the end of the electoral session in 1925. The party did not nominate him in subsequent Senate elections. Over the course of 1923 and 1924, he held the position of Chancellor of Charles University and retired in 1923. While he gravitated toward national democracy after the expiration of his Senate mandate, Horáček did not return to politics and addressed economic questions only in the capacity of a journalist. He died in Prague in 1943.

Karel Prášek, who was born in 1868 in Řivno u Benatek nad Jizerou, owned a large estate in Košetice. In 1897, he co-founded the Association of Czech Farmers and became a member of its executive committee. In 1899, he was elected deputy of the association, a success that led to the association’s transformation into the Czech Agrarian Party, in which Prášek became vice chairman. In 1900 he was elected to the Imperial Council and in 1904 became, thanks to his activities in politics and agriculture, chairman of the Czech division of the Agricultural Council. Over the course of 1907 and 1908, he worked as a Czech compatriot minister in the Beck government in Vienna. Thanks to his participation in the anti-Austrian resistance movement, he was named to the Revolutionary National Assembly, and he even served as the first Czechoslovak Minister of Agriculture. In 1920, he was elected to the Senate. While his position in the Agrarian Party was not as strong as it had been in the early days of the organisation (primarily due to the influence of Antonín Švehla), support from the party’s conservative wing allowed him to push through a reshuffle of the Senate’s leadership, and he was elected its chairman on 13 July 1920. His chairmanship of the Distillers Co-operative proved highly problematic. He seriously compromised himself in the so-called “booze scandal”, which was even denounced by President Masaryk. Political and societal pressure forced Prášek to resign from the chairmanship of the Senate on 23 January 1924. When he was relieved of his office in 1925, he left the Agrarian Party and founded his own Czech Agrarian and Conservative Party. After the party’s collapse during the 1925 elections, Prášek dissolved it and gave up politics. From that point on, he devoted himself only to his large estate in Košetice, out of which he gradually built a model agricultural enterprise. He died in 1932.

Václav Donát, who replaced Karl Prášek as Senate chairman, was born in 1869 in Chrášťany u Rakovníka but spent his whole life in the Pelhřimov region, where he owned an estate in Pavlov. He became a member of the regional council and later its chairman. He was active in the Czech Agrarian Party from the time of its establishment. In 1907 he ran as a candidate for the Imperial Diet, but after a stormy election was not elected. It was only in 1911 that he succeeded, and he remained in the Imperial Council until its dissolution in 1918. After the revolution, he became chairman of the National Committee in Pelhřimov and a member of the Revolutionary National Assembly. In 1920, he was elected to the Senate, where he became chairman of the Agrarian Party club – the Republican Party of the Czechoslovak Countryside, which in 1922 was renamed the Republican Party of Farmers and Smallholders. After Prášek stepped down, Donát was elected Senate chairman, a post that he held until 18 February 1926. Afterward, he served as vice chairman of the Senate and chairman of the foreign committee. Vice chairman of the Senate was a post he continued to hold in following electoral sessions, up until the year 1939, when the Senate was dissolved. He died in 1954.

Doctor of Law František Soukup, Václav Klofáč and Josef Kadlčák were elected deputy chairmen. Following his death, Kadlčák was replaced by František Valoušek on 15 May 1924. In that same year, the Social Democrats requested the creation of a fourth vice chairman post, which was subsequently occupied by Dr. Bohuslav Franta.

František Soukup was born in 1871, studied secondary school in Čáslav and Kolín, and completed his studies in law in Prague and Graz. He was an active journalist and founded the Social Democratic newspaper Právo lidu (The Rights of Man). He gained political experience in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Council and Revolutionary National Assembly. He served as the first Czechoslovak Minister of Justice.

Václav Klofáč was born in 1868. After his studies in Německý (Havlíčkův) Brod and at the Philosophy Faculty in Prague, he devoted himself to journalism and politics. He became chairman of the newly formed Party of Czech National Socialists, worked in the Imperial Council and Provincial Diet, and actively participated in the 1918 revolution. He was dispatched by the party to the Revolutionary National Assembly and served as the first Czechoslovak Minister of Defence. In 1920 he became senator and was elected deputy chairman of the Senate, a post he held until that body’s dissolution in 1938, with the exception of his service as the Senate chairman in 1926. He was also chairman of the National Socialists until 1938. He died in 1942.

Josef Kadlčák was born in 1856 in Březnice u Zlína. As a member of the National Catholic Party, he received a mandate in 1906 to the Provincial Diet, and a year afterward to the Imperial Council, where he served until 1918. He became a member of the Revolutionary National Assembly and in 1920 successfully ran as a candidate to the Senate for the Czechoslovak People’s Party. He was an expert in fruit and vegetable cultivation and apiculture as well as the author of books and magazine articles about these fields. He died in 1924.

Wilhelm Niessner was born in 1873 near Bučovice. He became an imperial and Moravian deputy in 1911. He was elected to the Senate as a representative of the German Social Democrats and in November 1920 became its deputy chairman, a function that he held until November 1926. Niessner served as editor in chief of the magazine Sozialdemokrat.

František Valoušek was born in 1863. He studied at the Theology Faculty and in 1887 was ordained as a priest. He became a member of the Moravian Provincial Diet in 1906, and from 1907 was a member of the Imperial Council. In 1918, he was sent to the Revolutionary National Assembly and was elected to the Senate as a representative of the Moravian-Ostrava electoral district. He served as deputy chairman of the Senate from 1924 to 1926. He was an active writer and was published primarily in Moravian journals.

Doctor of Law Bohuslav Franta was born in 1861 in Poděbrady. After completing his studies in law, he joined the Czech Provincial Committee. He was an active writer and journalist. In 1911 he was elected to the Imperial Council and was a member of the so-called Mafia, actively taking part in preparations for the country’s independence. Following his service in the Revolutionary National Assembly, he was elected to the Senate as a Social Democrat representative, where he held the function of deputy chairman from 1924 to 1925.

Upon the issuance of a decree by the president of the republic on 16 October 1925, both chambers of the National Assembly were dissolved, even though the electoral sessions of both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate (six and eight years, respectively) had not been completed.


Second Electoral Session – 1925 - 1929

The next elections for both chambers took place concurrently on 15 November 1925 (a date that marked the first election taking place across all parts of the country) on the basis of an amendment to the election law that: altered some electoral districts, the methods for apportioning mandates in the second election round, the circumstances under which mandates could be lost, and financial matters concerning parties that failed to reach the threshold required to achieve Parliamentary representation. A total of 12 electoral regions were established for the Senate election, and more than 91% of eligible voters cast their ballots. The 150 Senate seats were apportioned among 14 political parties. Garnering the most seats – 23 – was the Czechoslovak Republican Party, followed by the Communist Party with 20, the People’s Party with 16 and the Social Democrats with 14. The Slovak People’s Party and German Farmers each gained 12, the German Social Democrats nine, and the National Democrats and German Christian Socialists each took seven. Among the other parties obtaining seats were: the Tradesmen Party (6), the German National Party (5), the German National Socialists (3) and the Hungarian-German Christian-Social Party (2). When broken down by national lines, the Senate was composed of 106 Czechoslovaks, 36 Germans, six Hungarians, one Russian and one Carpathian Rus. The Communist Party, which in 1920 had been a leftist faction within the Social Democrats, received 14 seats more than it had in the first electoral session, making the party the biggest gainer in a comparison of the two election results. Also improving upon its earlier performance was the Slovak People’s Party, with a gain of six. The Czechoslovak Social Democrats suffered the biggest drop in mandates, losing a total of 20 seats. Prime Minister Antonín Švehla said, among other things, of the 1925 election to the National Assembly: “More than 90% of citizens took part in the election, a solid showing that testifies to a great deal of cultural maturity. Our citizens did not vote in the spirit of holding a demonstration, but rather to make a clear statement that they expect positive work in Parliament from their elected officials. In this respect, the elections that took place bear eloquent witness to the realistic views of our people, just as they are meaningful proof of the good results of our consolidation efforts as well as the exemplary peace and order in the country.”

While the choice of Senate chairman and deputy chairman had gone fairly smoothly in the first electoral session, problems were encountered the second time around. Because Jan Malypetr of the Republic Party was chosen as chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Socialist parties were demanding the post of Senate chairman. The Czechoslovak People’s Party, which finished second among the so-called citizen’s parties (the Communist Party finished second among all parties), was putting forward the same requirement. With no hope for a quick solution to the controversy, the presidium that operated in the first session was re-elected, with the only difference in its constitution being the replacement of National-Democratic senator Dr. Franta, who was not re-elected to the Senate, by a senator from the same party, Dr. Brabec. The election of a new presidium took place only on 18 February 1926, albeit under the boycott of the Slovak People’s Party and the German and Hungarian Citizens parties. National Socialist Dr. Václav Klofáč, who received 86 votes out of 107, was elected chairman; the Communist candidate, V. Houser, received 19 votes. Dr. Jaroslav Brabec of the National Democrats, Václav Donát of the Czechoslovak Republicans, Dr. Mořic Hruban of the People’s Party, Wilhelm Niessner of the German Social Democrats and Dr. František Soukup of the Czechoslovak Social Democrats were elected deputy chairmen. As the National Socialists and Czechoslovak Social Democrats were no longer members of the governing coalition, a new election for the Senate presidium took place on 30 November 1926. With the National Socialists, the Czech and German Social Democrats, Communist Party and German Nationals not taking part, Dr. Mořic Hruban of the People’s Party was elected chairman. Dr. V. Klofáč became deputy chairman. Josef Böhr of the German Christian-Social Party, now in the governing coalition, was elected to replace W. Niessner. The number of deputy chairmen was increased from five to six, with the new post being occupied by Slovak People’s Party member Dr. Karol Krčméry. V. Donát, J. Brabec and F. Soukup remained in their functions. V. Klofáč, V. Donát, V. Niessner and F. Soukup had already worked in the Senate presidium in the first electoral session.

The new Senate chairman, Doctor of Law Mořic Hruban, was born in 1862 in Brodek u Prostějova. He had intensively devoted himself to political and cultural matters from the time he began his studies in law in Vienna. He was a co-founder of and functionary in several patriotic associations. In 1896 he became chairman of the recently established Catholic National Party in Moravia. In 1901 he was elected to the Imperial Council and in 1902 became a member of the Moravian Provincial Diet. From 1908 to 1912 he served as deputy of the Moravian Provincial Commissioner. Following the events of 1918, he was delegated by his party to serve in the National Committee and Revolutionary National Assembly. He became a member of the first Czechoslovak Kramář government (as Minister without Portfolio). Hruban played an important role in the merger of various Christian factions into the Czechoslovak People’s Party. In the 1920 elections, he became a member of Parliament as a representative of Olomouc and was elected deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies. In subsequent electoral sessions until the Senate’s dissolution, he was its deputy chairman.

Deputy chairman Doctor of Law Jaroslav Brabec was born in 1869 in Prague-Karlín. He completed his studies in law in 1897. In addition to operating a law practice, he became active in public life. He was elected mayor of Karlín, deputy of the district chairman, chairman of the Central Czech Electric Company, and was a leading representative of the National Democrats. At the time of the revolution, he was a member of the National Committee and was delegated by the party to the Revolutionary National Assembly. In the years 1920 and 1925 he was elected senator. In the Senate he won recognition from his fellow senators regardless of party affiliation. He took a keen interest in international politics and the nationalities question. Brabec did not run as a candidate in subsequent electoral sessions.

Doctor of Philosophy Karol Krčméry was born in 1859 in Ružomberok. After completing his secondary school studies in Košice, he graduated from university in Budapest with a degree in classical philosophy. Between 1884 and 1888 he was a professor in Transylvania. Because he had received, among other things, authorisation to teach in the Serbian language, he subsequently served, until 1919, as director of a secondary school in Velika Kikinda in Hungary that was the centre of a privileged Serbian district. He was elected senator for the first time in 1925, and he defended his mandate in subsequent electoral sessions.

Josef Böhr was born in 1862 in Podhradice u Bíliny. After completing his studies, he devoted himself to journalism. Later he became editor in chief of the magazine Volkszeitung in Varnsdorf. In the 1920 elections, he was chosen as a member of Parliament on behalf of the Česká Lipa region, while in 1925 he was elected senator for the Mladá Boleslav region. He served in the Senate in the third electoral session as well.

As was the case with the first electoral session, the second session’s term was cut short (the electoral session of the Senate had been set at eight years) and elections to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate were called for 27 October 1929. Prior to these elections, President T.G. Masaryk deemed it necessary to appeal to the voters with these words: “It is a meaningful coincidence that the development of internal political affairs and the elections to the National Assembly are taking place just as the state celebrates one thousand years of existence. Elections serve as a serious exhortation that we not let up in our aspirations for purity and integrity in politics. Our fathers prayed to Saint Wenceslas that neither we nor future generations would perish. We must realise that the fate of our country as a republic and democracy is in the hands of each and every one of us and that therefore we must vote conscientiously, of our free will and with consciousness of our duties as citizens. The elections taking place on Saint Wenceslas Day must be a defeat of demagogic weakness and indolence, just as they must be a victory of democracy, sending capable and honest representatives to lead the republic. …Citizens, carefully consider for whom you will vote to represent you and the nation in the National Assembly. With the help of God we will not allow ourselves, nor future generations, to perish.“


Third Electoral Session – 1929 - 1935

The third elections to the National Assembly – to both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate – took place on 27 October 1929. Unlike in the last election in 1925, active members of the army and police did not vote, as their right to vote had expired in accordance with Act No. 56 of 1927. Representatives of 18 political parties ran as candidates in the Senate elections; 14 parties were successful. Voter turnout was relatively large – nearly 92%. In Carpathian Rus, 88% of eligible voters went to the polls; turnout was reported at 90% in Slovakia and more than 92% in the Czech lands. The Republican Party – as it did in 1925 – had the strongest showing, winning 24 Senate seats. The Social Democrats gained 20 seats, the National Socialists 16, the People’s Party 13, Hlinka’s People’s Party nine, Czechoslovak National Democracy eight, and the Tradesmen-Business Party six. One seat was won by the grouping of the League Against Pledged Candidate Lists (the former National Socialists around J. Stříbrný and the National Fascist Community). The Communist Party suffered substantial losses, receiving 23% fewer votes than it had at the previous election and controlling 15 seats. Of the German parties, the strongest was the German Social Democracy with 11 Senate mandates. The German Electoral Community Spirit Party obtained nine seats, the German National Socialists four, and the alliance of the German Tradesmen and Christian-Social Democrats gained eight. The coalition of the Slovak Christian-Social Party, Hungarian National Party and German Spišská Party had a six-member representation in the Senate. The Senate counted four women members among its ranks (the same amount as in the previous session).

Voting for the Senate presidium took place on 12 December 1929, and was preceded by an agreement between the two strongest parties: The Republican Party was to put forward a candidate for chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, while the Social Democrats were to do the same for chairmanship of the Senate. The proposed candidate for Senate chairman, František Soukup, received 105 votes out of 120; his rival candidate, Josef Haken of the Communist Party, received 14 votes, with those coming only from members of his own club. Republican Václav Donát, Václav Klofáč of the National-Social Party, Mořic Hruban of the People’s Party, Emanuel B. Trčka of the Tradesmen-Business Party, Karl Heller of the German Social Democrats and Jozef Buday of the Slovak People’s Party were elected deputy chairmen. Members of some of the minority, opposition parties – German Christian Social Party, the German Tradesmen and Hlinka’s People’s Party – protested the vote and did not participate. Dr. Buday gave up his function on 17 December 1929, based on the decision of his club. An agreement was struck in January between the senator clubs of the Czechoslovak National Democracy and German Farmers to share their representation in the function of deputy chairman, with substitutions to be made on a yearly basis. On the basis of this agreement, Dr. Buday was replaced by senator Josef Luksch of the Association of German Farmers, who was chosen in January 1930. In 1931, he was replaced by National-Democracy senator Václav Votruba, who was substituted in the following year by German senator Josef Kahler. Václav Votruba returned to the post in 1933, as did Josef Kahler in 1934.

E. B. Trčka, K. Heller, J. Luksch, V. Votruba and J. Kahler became new functionaries, not counting the approximately week of service put in by J. Buday. F. Soukup, V. Donát, V. Klofáč and M. Hruban had worked in the Senate presidium in past electoral sessions.

Emanuel B. Trčka was born in 1873 in Bezděkov u Rožmitálu. He represented the Tradesmen Party as a stonemason and sculptor. He was a member of the party’s executive committee as well as the board of trustees of the Czechoslovak National Council. In addition to holding the deputy chairman function in the Senate, he was also chairman of the Tradesmen Party’s senator club. He relinquished his mandate on 5 November 1932 due to health problems; he died short of two months later. Doctor of Law Karl Heller was born in 1872 in Liběchov u Mělníka. He studied law at the German University in Prague and later worked as a lawyer in Teplice. He had been elected to the Senate in the first election in 1920. He was a member of the executive committee of his own party, deputy chairman of the German League of the Association of Nations in Czechoslovakia and deputy chairman of the Czechoslovak group in the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He worked in the Senate in the next, and what was to be the last, electoral session. Josef Luksch, a farmer by trade, was born in 1862 in Lodenice u Pohořelic. He began to circulate in higher political circles as early as 1890, when he was elected to the Moravian Provincial Diet. In 1900 he was selected as a delegate to the Imperial Council in Vienna. He became chairman of the German Business Community Association in 1903 as well as a member of the Farmers Council for Moravia. He had worked in the Senate in the first and second electoral sessions, and was also chairman of the German Farmers Party senator club. He died in 1936. National Democrat Vilém Votruba was born in 1870 in Kutná Hora. He was a member of the executive committee of his party and of the Moravian Provincial Committee. Votruba was elected to the Moravian Provincial Diet in 1906 and to the Imperial Council in 1911. He was an active journalist and wrote many political and specialist articles about economics; over time, he managed several periodicals as editor. Following the events of 1918 he became a member of the Revolutionary National Assembly and served as a deputy in the first and second electoral sessions. Josef Kahler was born in Hejtmánkovice u Broumova, where he spent his whole life. He was a committee member of the Central Union of German Business Communities in the Czech Lands. In addition, he was chairman of the board of directors of a printing and publishing house in Broumov and a member of the district school board.

Nearly all of this electoral session was marked by a worldwide economic crisis, the effects of which were apparent – albeit somewhat later than in other countries – even in Czechoslovakia’s economy, which at the time was relatively strong. As a result of the crisis, both chambers passed, among other laws, legislation that gave the government extraordinary powers, such as the ability to issue decrees of an economic nature without the need for a law to be passed. In a report on the government’s reasoning, it was stated that: “the current economic predicament more and more reveals the need for accelerated deliberations and decision-making. In light of our political situation and cumbersome Parliamentary processes, we cannot rest assured in our ability to always take the necessary legislative path at the right moment.” Parliament accommodated the government on this issue in 1933, although it limited its approval through 1935. However, the economic situation forced various extensions of this state of affairs until 1937. In an evaluation of the measures taken by the government in 1936, it was stated that: “It cannot be claimed that the extraordinary powers of the current and previous government resulted in it unnecessarily circumnavigating the legislative process of the National Assembly.” The rise of nationalistic tendencies among German, right-wing Slovak and Hungarian parties and movements called for the need to tighten various laws – primarily the law on the defence of the republic, the law on extraordinary measures and the law governing the operation of the press – as well as the passage of new laws, such as legislation on prosecuting subversive activities of state employees as well as halting the activities of and dissolving political parties. These laws were passed very quickly: While the Chamber of Deputies and Senate had taken several months to hammer out some legislation, the laws mentioned were negotiated in both chambers in quick succession; for example, the law on extraordinary directive powers was on the Chamber of Deputies’ agenda of 8 June 1933 and on the Senate’s already the next day.

The year 1935 marked the end of the six-year electoral session of the Chamber of Deputies, and from the beginning of the year it was already obvious that pre-session compromises were not going to be struck between the political entities in Parliament. As a result, the president of the republic dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate on 17 April 1935 at the proposal of Prime Minister J. Malypetr, despite the fact that the Senate had two years remaining in its electoral session. The next elections took place on 19 May 1935, in accordance with changes to legislation made in April 1935 that primarily concerned the apportioning of mandates in the second and third rounds. The official activities of the Senate in the third electoral session were closed on 18 June 1935.


Fourth Electoral Session – 1935 - 1939

A total of 16 parties ran for representation in the Chamber of Deputies, and 15 for the Senate, in 1935. More than 93% of eligible voters took part in the elections, representing an increase on the turnout in the previous election. The Party of Republican Farmers and Smallholders (Agrarians) gained the most seats in the Senate – 23. The Czech Social Democrats fell to third place with 20 mandates, while the National Socialists gained 14 seats and the Czechoslovak People’s Party 11. The strongest party in Slovakia was the autonomist bloc (receiving more than 30% of the votes) and occupied 11 seats in the Senate. The Czechoslovak Middle Class Tradesmen-Business Party had eight senators, the National Unification Party (the strongest in Carpathian Rus) nine, and the Sudeten German Party 23, thus giving it as strong a representation as the Republicans. This party gained largely at the expense of the German Social Democrats, which gained only six Senate seats. Three senators were elected on behalf of the German Christian-Social Party and six for the coalition of the German-Hungarian Christian Party and Hungarian National Party. Sixteen senators were from the Communist Party.

Voting for a presidium in both chambers was again preceded by an agreement of the two strongest Czech and Czechoslovak parties. Republican Bohumír Bradáč was thus elected chairman of the Chamber of Deputies at the opening meeting on 18 June 1935, while Social Democrat František Soukup was elected Senate chairman. Soukup obtained 96 votes out of 145, with 39 ballots being submitted with no choice made, as no party had delegated a rival candidate. Most of those not voting for Dr. Soukup were Sudeten German senators.

Republican Václav Donát, National Socialist Václav Klofáč, Mořic Hruban of the People’s Party, Otakar Bas of the Tradesmen-Business Party, Karel Heller of the German Social Democrats and Jozef Buday of Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party were elected deputy chairmen of the Senate. Nearly all of the leadership were experienced Senate functionaries: F. Soukup was deputy chairman in the second electoral session and chairman in the third; V. Donát was chairman in the first and second sessions and deputy chairman in the second and third; M. Hruban was chairman in the second session and deputy chairman in the third; V. Klofáč was deputy chairman in all of the previous sessions and chairman in the second; and K. Heller was deputy chairman in the third electoral session.

While Dr. Jozef Buday was elected deputy chairman in the previous session, he resigned his post, at the direction of his party, within a matter of days, leaving him practically no opportunity to carry out his function. Only he and Dr. Bas were new Senate functionaries in the fourth electoral session.

Doctor of Theology Jozef Buday was born in 1877 in Trenčín. After completing studies in theology, he became a parish priest and worked as an editor of several Catholic magazines. He began his political career in 1910, when he was elected to the district representation in Trenčín, where he worked until 1919. In that year, he was named to the Revolutionary National Assembly. In the elections of 1920 and 1925, he was elected as a representative in the Chamber of Deputies and from December 1926 to December 1929 was its deputy chairman. In the 1929 and 1935 elections he was elected senator. In addition to his deputy chairman function in the Senate, he also served as chairman of the Slovak People’s Party senator club. He was also a member of the party’s presidium.

Doctor of Law Otakar Bas was born in 1879 in Hradec Králové. After completing his studies in law, he worked as a lawyer in Prague. He also contributed specialist articles and literature to various magazines. He was an active member of the Tradesmen Party, where he held various functions in leadership positions. Even though he had experience as a representative in the Austro-Hungarian period, he was elected to the National Assembly only in 1935.

In its fourth electoral session, the Senate dealt – as did the Chamber of Deputies – primarily with questions related to the continuing economic crisis and passed measures against attempts to disrupt the country’s unity. It also dealt with questions of nationality, which were becoming more and more delicate for Germans, Slovaks and Hungarians alike. In connection with the expansive policies of Germany, the Senate actively occupied itself with the defence of the state and the danger threatening Czechoslovakia from within and from beyond its borders – for example, in 1936 it passed an important law on the defence of the state. Autumn 1935 marked the first time that a president other than T. G. Masaryk was elected to office. After Masaryk stepped down from his position due to health reasons, Foreign Minister Dr. Edvard Beneš was elected president on 18 December 1935.

The Senate was in session seven times in the fourth electoral session; the seventh session lasted from 29 March 1938 to 18 May 1938; the Senate passed its last law on 12 May 1938. On 16 September 1938 the president of the republic announced the closing of the Senate’s seventh session. The Senate never met again and was later dissolved by President Hácha on 21 March 1939, by which time the country was already a protectorate.