Thursday, 24 April 2014

ČSSD deciding between allying with Zeman or Kalousek

ČTK |
2 August 2013

Prague, Aug 1 (CTK) - The Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is deciding whether to ally with former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek or President Milos Zeman, CSSD deputy chairman Michal Hasek told CTK yeterday, referring to the CSSD's internal debate on whether to back Jiri Rusnok's caretaker cabinet.

Hasek said the support for Rusnok ahead of the lower house's confidence vote is rising in the CSSD, which is the most popular Czech party and the strongest in parliament.

He said he does not share CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka's apprehensions that Zeman or even the extra-parliamentary Citizens' Rights Party (SPOZ), which is close to Zeman, might take an upper hand over the CSSD.

The Rusnok cabinet of unaffiliated experts was initiated and appointed by Zeman after the previous right-wing government's collapse a few weeks ago. Its chance of surviving the August 7 motion of confidence is uncertain as the former government parties have denied support to it and the opposition, including the CSSD, is yet to make up its mind.

Until recently, the CSSD insisted on early elections as the only acceptable solution.

Hasek said CSSD members' appeals for the party to back Rusnok's cabinet have intensified these days after even Sobotka recognised that the cabinet's policy statement will be identical with the CSSD's programme to a big extent.

He said supporting the caretaker cabinet is a way to prevent the return of the right-wing coalition of the Civic Democrats (ODS), TOP 09 and LIDEM, which could be given the next government-forming attempt by Zeman if Rusnok's cabinet lost the confidence vote.

"The CSSD's decision making now focuses on whether its ally will be Miroslav Kalousek [former unpopular finance minister for TOP 09] or Milos Zeman," Hasek pointed out.

Zeman, who presents himself as a leftist president, was CSSD chairman and PM in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he fell out with the party a few years ago.

The CSSD plans to definitively make up its mind at a meeting of the party leadership and deputies' group on Tuesday, at which Rusnok will also be present.

According to CTK's information, voices in favour of Rusnok prevailed among the CSSD leaders at a meeting two weeks ago, and support for Rusnok seems to be even stronger among the CSSD's rank-and-file.

Sobotka, who is escalating his critical stand on Rusnok's cabinet, told CTK on Wednesday that he believes he will succeed with his own proposal.

He said the CSSD should not seek [voters'] short-time support only but also strive for the preservation of the principles of parliamentarism.

At the same time, Sobotka warned against the CSSD losing its independence from Zeman and the SPOZ, a party of which Zeman is the honorary chairman.

Hasek dismissed similar apprehensions.

"The search for an internal enemy and other power centres or a theory of conspiracy is not an agenda for the CSSD to deal with, as nothing like that in fact exists," Hasek said.

The CSSD should not play the role of a party affiliated with Zeman but it should seek ways to rationally communicate and cooperate with the president, Hasek added.

He stressed that voting confidence in Rusnok's cabinet should not mean automatically applauding to everything the government would do.

The Rusnok cabinet is not a CSSD cabinet, it is a caretaker cabinet of experts whose goal is to lead the country to new elections, Hasek said.

The next regular general election is due in May 2014.

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