Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Pehe: ČSSD chairman trapped in his buck-passing

ČTK |
10 January 2017

Prague, Jan 9 (CTK) - Czech Prime Minister and Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Bohuslav Sobotka may pay dearly for his tendency to buck-passing, which was most recently reflected in his refusal to field his party's own presidential candidate, Jiri Pehe writes in Pravo on Monday.

The next direct presidential election is due in early 2018. It is not sure yet whether current President Milos Zeman will be defending his post.

Sobotka said the CSSD would not not nominate its candidate for president, but it would hold an internal referendum to decide which of the candidates who would emerge by mid-2017, the Social Democrats (CSSD) would support.

Sobotka thereby sends several controversial signals to voters, Pehe writes.

First, he shows that the strongest government party is not able to actively offer a candidate whose profile would reflect its priorities to voters, and second, that the current CSSD leadership does not enjoy a sufficient authority in the party to dare to propose a presidential candidate itself, Pehe adds.

Yet, the public is well aware of that the CSSD's unresolved relation to Zeman, its former chairman, lies behind this indecisive stance, Pehe says.

Sobotka has long been in dispute with Zeman who recently allied with the CSSD's main rival, Finance Minister and ANO chairman Andrej Babis. However, instead of "taking up the glove," Sobotka is "blowing a retreat," Pehe writes.

Sobotka apparently does not have enough courage to tell his fellow party members to choose "either me or Zeman."

Moreover, Pehe writes, part of the public will be annoyed by his inconsistent behaviour as he recently rejected as populism CSSD MP Jeronym Tejc's proposal that CSSD head be elected by the rank-and-file in a referendum, instead of the regular vote at the congress.

Sobotka did the right thing. He faced a fight and he will probably defend his chairmanship again at the March congress, Pehe says.

However, if he leaves the party's nomination of a presidential candidate up to a plebiscite instead of connecting it with his struggle for re-election, he is not likely to remain CSSD leader for long, Pehe points out.

If Social Democrats have to choose from the candidates generated outside the CSSD, Zeman can almost certainly count with majority support in the CSSD if he decided to run again. Sobotka would thereby lose his last chance of fighting a battle with Zeman on the result of which the mere survival of the CSSD as a trustworthy party would depend.

"In view of the strengthening alliance of Zeman and Babis, the CSSD can only play a humiliating role of an ideologically empty second for the Zeman-Babis duo in the case of ANO's victory in the (October) election to the Chamber of Deputies. Naturally without Sobotka (at its helm) then," Pehe writes in conclusion.

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