Friday, 25 April 2014

ČSSD reps back Zeman but with votes

ČTK |
17 January 2013

Prague, Jan 16 (CTK) - The Czech senior opposition Social Democrat (CSSD) leaders have voiced support to former CSSD head Milos Zeman but most of them are likely to cast their ballots in support of Zeman's rival Karel Schwarzenberg in the presidential election run-off vote, Alexandr Mitrofanov says in Pravo yesterday.

Zeman, who fell out with the CSSD in the 2000s and is now running for president for the leftist Citizens' Rights Party (SPOZ), and Schwarzenberg, foreign minister and conservative junior ruling TOP 09 chairman, advanced from last weekend's first election round, defeating another seven candidates, including the CSSD's Jiri Dienstbier.

The CSSD then attracted attention by recommending that voters support Zeman in the second round on January 25-26, Mitrofanov writes, alluding to the tense or even hostile relations between the CSSD and Zeman in the past years.

Voicing support for Zeman was an idea suggested by CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka and deputy chairman Michal Hasek. It was eventually supported by all members of the CSSD leadership, except for Dienstbier who did not attend the relevant debate and later he repeatedly explained that he cannot vote for Zeman because this would mean "spitting in his own face," Mitrofanov writes.

He alludes to the sharp "exchange of fire" between Zeman and Dienstbier during the pre-election campaign.

Of well-known Social Democrats, Dienstbier's position was joined only by Vladimir Spidla, former CSSD leader and prime minister and former EU commissioner. He said he would vote for Schwarzenberg because Zeman as president would destroy the CSSD.

If Schwarzenberg were elected president, he would not care about the CSSD, which would be able to continue criticising, undisturbed, the government weakened by Schwarzenberg's departure as TOP 09 chairman, Mitrofanov writes.

The serious situation turned comic earlier this week when CSSD deputy chairman Lubomir Zaoralek on television persuaded viewers that the CSSD could not but voice support for Zeman, but then he got scared at the question of whether he would follow this recommendation himself, Mitrofanov writes.

It is quite rightful to expect most of the top CSSD leaders to cast their ballots for Schwarzenberg in the second round, he continues.

Some members of the CSSD leadership have asserted in an internal debate that they will support Zeman, which, however, makes no sense as these people figure in Zeman's list of "CSSD traitors" on whom he wants to take revenge. Their verbal promotion of Zeman is evidently an alibi-seeking manoeuvre, Mitrofanov writes.

Zeman, former CSSD head and PM, fell out with the CSSD after a part of CSSD lawmakers did not cast their votes for him and thus thwarted his election as president by parliament in early 2003.

This week, in the wake of the direct presidential poll's first round, the loveliest show was that of Hasek, who was seen bowing before Zeman and presenting him with a bottle of plum brandy on behalf of the CSSD, while a few moments later he was seen offering a present to PM Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) on behalf of the Regional Governors' Association which he heads, Mitrofanov writes.

Mitrofanov says CSSD leaders told him that Hasek's conduct was a brilliant tactical move of the CSSD leadership.

CSSD leaders evidently reckon with Zeman not being elected president. If so, they say they will destroy Zeman's fifth column represented in the CSSD leadership by the party's deputy heads Zdenek Skromach and Marie Benesova and by other people in the its other bodies, Mitrofanov writes.

If the leaders had not called for voters' support to Zeman now, the pro-Zeman faction would destroy them immediately, they say off-record, cited by Mitrofanov.

Asked what would happen if their expectation turned out to be wrong and Zeman became president, they say amid the purges in the CSSD, ordered by Zeman and triggered off by his allies, they would be able to defend themselves saying they voiced support for Zeman before the key presidential vote, Mitrofanov writes.

The CSSD leaders, except for senator and party deputy head Dienstbier, are ready to be ambiguous and look as bootlickers and cowards as part of their fight for positions, Mitrofanov concludes.

rtj/t/kva

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