Can Hamacek Make the Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) Relevant Again?ČTK
Prague, Feb 19 (CTK) – Jan Hamacek, whom the Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) elected their new leader on Sunday, is the best choice of the bad solutions available, Lubos Krec writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.
Former regional governor Jiri Zimola, who lost to Hamacek in the runoff election and won the post of first deputy chairman afterwards, is a more charismatic and less familiar face than Hamacek, but his triumph would threaten the pro-European, liberal focus of the CSSD, Krec says, adding that Zimola would take orders from President Milos Zeman.
In his egocentric and vengeful address to the CSSD congress, the former CSSD prime minister Zeman recommended that the Social Democrats join the government of ANO leader Andrej Babis without having any ministers in it.
But this would turn the CSSD into a B-team of Babis.
It is noteworthy that Zeman made this proposal shortly before the 70th anniversary of the Czechoslovak communist coup after which the Social Democrats were forced to become a B-team of the Communists. This is a sad reminder of the situation in Czech politics 28 years after the fall of the communist regime in the country, Krec writes.
Hamacek, now 39, headed the Young Social Democrats in 2002-06 and he has been a member of the lower house of parliament since 2006. In the previous election term he was the house’s chairman and now he is its deputy chairman. He joined the CSSD narrow leadership three years ago.
The experienced politician Hamacek always knew which side to take, and reserved statements and a diplomatic language thanks to which he avoids confrontations are typical of him. He is not a new face in the party, yet he is new for the broad public because he has been taking part in political meetings, commissions and delegations until now.
“Hamacek is a prototype of a cautious political official who preferred the parliamentary routine to the executive,” Krec writes.
But the Social Democrats are seeking a resolute leader. The most frequent complaint that one could recently hear from the rank and file is that the CSSD lost its identity and stopped understanding common people, moved away from them and became technocratic.
One of the CSSD ideologists, former foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek, said politics has changed all over the world but the party missed it.
This is a syndrome socialists face in a number of countries. They got used to the political routine where they regularly alternated in the government with their right-wing rivals, but they let populist opponents become stronger and stronger and now they do not know how to deal with them, Krec writes.
The populists do the things that the traditional politicians have not done – permanent campaigning, short slogans, creative interpretations of truth, confrontational style based on scaring and criticising those in power. The parasitical attitude is successful because it sponges on the weakness of the host, or, in other words, on the frustration of the voters.
The CSSD is now facing the dilemma of whether to again form a government with Babis who embodies a politician of the post-fact era, Krec says.
Although Babis is burdened by his prosecution over a suspected fraud, although he is listed as a collaborator of the former communist secret police, although his business developed thanks to close connections with politics, although his property and life style are very different from those of the average Czech citizen, many pin their hopes for a better future on him.
Most Czechs still accept Babis’s universal excuse that all his critics are a part of a campaign that the corrupt political system wages against him.
Hamacek takes a stance similar to that of the German Social Democrats (SPD) who defended their grand coalition with Angela Merkel. Hamacek says the CSSD will promote at least a part of its programme in a better way if it joins the government.
But the Social Democrats did this in the past four years and it was Babis who managed to present most of the government’s successes as his own. Moreover, Babis copied crucial parts of the CSSD programme and mixed them with right-wing proposals. In the general election last October, ANO won 29.6 percent of the vote, while the CSSD only 7.3 percent.
The idea of joining the government and at the same time reviving the CSSD and regaining the lost voters could be realistic if a strong team of distinctive faces headed by a determined leader represented it in the government. Moreover, the CSSD leader would have to attract people, win their trust and persuade them that he can be as effective as Babis.
During his political career, Hamacek has offered little to expect him to fulfil such a mission. For example, trade union leader Josef Stredula would be more suitable for this task. But time and negotiations will show, Krec writes.