Monday, 20 November 2017

HN: Zeman and Sobotka are again at loggerheads

ČTK |
3 February 2016

Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) - Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka never had close relations, but they tried to at least show respect for one another in the past two years, which changed after the latest celebrations of November 17, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes Tuesday.

On November 17, 2015, during an event to remember the fall of the country's communist regime in 1989 and Nazi persecution against universities in 1939, Zeman stood next to Martin Konvicka, leader of the extremist Bloc against Islam, which Sobotka criticised.

This renewed Zeman's feeling of animosity towards Sobotka, whom he ranked among the traitors who did not support him in the presidential election in 2003 when he was not elected, HN writes.

Most recently, Zeman, 71, criticised Sobotka, 44, during his visit to South Moravia. When answering a question from a student, he said a non-democratic way of getting rid of the prime minister is the use of the Kalashnikov rifle, which politicians from most parties denounced, while some interpreted as one of Zeman's favourite bons mots.

Zeman also came out against Sobotka in interviews he gave to media recently and in which he said Sobotka is harming the CSSD and expressed regret at "dabblers" leading the CSSD to "lower floors of political influence."

HN writes that Zeman's stepped-up attacks on Sobotka were debated at the regular Monday morning consultative meeting in Sobotka's office.

Sobotka believes that he is now the target of attacks by the revengeful Zeman like the former prime minister and CSSD chairmen, Vladimir Spidla, Stanislav Gross and Jiri Paroubek, were in the past.

"That Milos Zeman was attacking and is attacking all his successors at the head of the CSSD, including those whom he originally chose himself, that it is evidently Zeman's problem," Sobotka told Monday's issue of HN.

Zeman was a member of the CSSD in 1992-2007 and its chairman in 1993-2001. He left the party over differences of opinion.

"All chairmen were initially trying to be on good terms with him, but no one has as yet succeeded in this. It has always ended up in attempts at their overthrow that were either supported or inspired by Zeman," Sobotka said.

He added that he hopes he will be the first to survive Zeman's attempts.

However, some of Sobotka's advisers came to the Monday meeting with the wild theory that this may be Lany number two, or Zeman's further attempt to shoot down Sobotka in cooperation with his opponents in the CSSD.

They referred to the "Lany coup," or the failed attempt to topple Sobotka after the autumn 2013 general election, which Zeman supported behind-the-scenes. It was initiated by a group of CSSD leading members headed by regional governor Michal Hasek, who secretly met Zeman in the Lany chateau, the presidential summer residence, beforehand.

HN writes that the advisers highlighted, may be in a paranaoid way, the fact that Zeman criticised Sobotka most sharply and several times during his visit to South Moravia, on which he was accompanied by Hasek, 39. Has Hasek got over the Lany attempted coup and is he again trying to get to the top? HN asks.

It writes that this is not so according to people from Hasek's surroundings. "I myself am not happy about any tension between the supreme politicians," HN quotes Hasek as saying.

"I suppose that the CSSD has its genuine base exactly in the governors," Zeman said in an interview with the weekly Tyden, adding that Hasek is the most popular governor.

He criticised the removal of Hasek from the CSSD's leadership in end-2013.

Zeman makes use of the atmosphere on lower levels of the CSSD, where some regional governors, who will be defending their posts in the autumn regional elections, have long been opposed to Sobotka's stance on migrants, which they consider to be too accommodating, HN writes.

It writes that even though the migrant crisis does not yet concern the Czech Republic too much, the governors want to use it in the election campaign, completely differing from Sobotka's stance. Zeman´s attitudes are closer to them, HN writes.

The most loud is precisely Hasek who likes the uncompromising policy pursued by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer-Social Democracy) who does not want to accept any refugees, not even voluntarily, HN writes.

The Social Democrats from Sobotka's wing are convinced that Zeman wants to harm Sobotka most strongly before the regional election, HN writes.

It writes that if Zeman goes on repeating to the voters for nine months that Sobotka is weak and that the CSSD is again split, the party will hardly defend 11 out of the total of 13 regional governors' posts, HN writes.

It writes that Sobotka is afraid of this and that he says already now that the governors themselves will be responsible for the result.

How will the conflict end? Paroubek, who also sought reconciliation with Zeman in vain and who was dubbed "bulldozer," surprisingly recommends to Sobotka to better limit confrontation with Zeman, HN writes.

"Zeman is a witting saboteur. With his concentrated bombarding of Sobotka's political position, he will disrupt the CSSD," HN quotes Paroubek as saying.

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