CSSD Infighting Continues: Party Could Benefit from Zeman Election Defeat

Milos Zeman

Prague, Dec 27 (CTK) – The fight between various factions in the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) continues after its election debacle and the party’s departure for opposition has even intensified internal conflicts, daily Pravo writes today.


The CSSD, senior member of the previous coalition government with ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), suffered a fiasco in the October general election. It gained mere 7.3 percent of the vote, compared to 20.5 percent four years ago, and its group in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies shrank from 50 to 15 members.


Moreover, none in the party believes that the extraordinary election congress scheduled for February 18 and the newly elected leader could cement the CSSD. This scepticism is deepened by the fact that no significant personality to unite the party has decided to run for chairperson yet, Pravo adds.


Most CSSD members addressed by Pravo are of the view that the new leader will be replaced at the regular congress in a year anyway.


Pravo writes that the future of CSSD acting chairman Milan Chovanec is uncertain. He told the daily that he would decide on his possible candidacy in January.


“The Social Democracy is in depression, we need a way out and we would clearly need to agree on future steps. If the party keeps making a split, quarrelsome impression, it will have no chance. Voters do not vote for such parties,” Chovanec told Pravo.


So far, only former Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek and CSSD South Bohemia regional brach head Jiri Zimola have received nominations for party chairman from district organisations. However, Zimola said he would contest the chairmanship only if the police shelved the investigation into the case of his house.


Besides, MP Jaroslav Foldyna and Pardubice Regional Governor Martin Netolicky want to run for CSSD deputy head, while MP Roman Onderka is considering his candidacy. Jitka Dostalova, who failed in the autumn general election, was also nominated for deputy chairwoman by district conferences.


Pravo says the names in the possible new leadership have stirred up controversies.


“Zimola is embracing (new PM and ANO chairman) Andrej Babis. If he is elected, we will be heading for a complete annihilation. This would not be a Social Democratic policy any more,” a CSSD senior official told Pravo.


The result of the January presidential election, in which the incumbent President Milos Zeman, former CSSD chairman and PM, is defending his post, will influence the CSSD February congress very much since the CSSD is also split into the camps of Zeman’s supporters and opponents, Pravo writes.


Some Social Democrats say Zeman’s departure as head of state would considerably relieve the party.


If Zeman were re-elected, the chances of his supporters within the CSSD would rise. However, they are not pulling at the same end of the rope either.


Zeman’s supporters Zimola and Foldyna, for instance, call on the former CSSD leadership, including another adherent of Zeman, Chovanec, not to be defending their posts, Pravo says.


It also writes that a solo player in the CSSD is former South Moravia regional governor Michal Hasek, who used to be Zeman’s favourite and now is working for MP and Vysocina Regional Governor Jiri Behounek.


Behounek is also speculated about as a possible candidate for CSSD chairman, but the party would have to change its statutes first to enable an unaffiliated candidate to run for its leadership, Pravo writes.


It adds that Zeman’s opponents in the CSSD deputy group and the Prague branch are also split.


The Social Democrats are not united in their stance on the ANO minority government of Babis either.


Zimola and Foldyna are clearly for cooperation with ANO, while Netolicky would nod to it under certain conditions. However, a new leadership might meet with a strong resistance of Babis’s opponents who make up about a half of the CSSD deputy group, Pravo writes.