Saturday, 18 November 2017

Právo: Czechs might support Sobotka if he runs for president

ČTK |
18 May 2017

Prague, May 17 (CTK) - Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) would be a candidate of not only left-wing voters but of all democrats if he decided to run against Milos Zeman, the incumbent head of state, in the 2018 presidential election, Alexandr Mitrofanov wrote in Pravo on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Sobotka ruled out his own candidacy for president. However, this is his position for the moment only, he writes.

Sobotka might actually gain quite broad support if his behaviour remained the same as during the current government crisis fuelled by Zeman and Andrej Babis, the controversial finance minister and ANO movement leader, Mitrofanov writes.

He alludes to Zeman's reluctance to dismiss Babis at Sobotka's request and Sobotka's firm insistence on Babis's departure over suspected tax evasion and influencing of media.

Sobotka said on Tuesday that the CSSD is considering fielding its own presidential candidate whom it will choose in an internal referendum after the October general election.

He said Zeman and Babis support each other in seeking the second presidential term and the post of prime minister, respectively. Zeman has recently lost much of the support he enjoyed among the CSSD members, also in connection with his approach to the government crisis, Sobotka indicated.

After many years of embarrassment and restraint, the CSSD has finally broken up with Zeman now, Mitrofanov writes.

Zeman headed the CSSD in 1993-2001. He helped it become the strongest leftist party and formed its first government in 1998. He fell out with the party after a group of CSSD lawmakers prevented his election as president by parliament in 2003. However, he still had a strong group of supporters in the party.

Zeman himself is to blame for having definitively lost fans in CSSD. Before, he permanently used his fans to meddle in the party's affairs and directly harm the party, Mitrofanov writes.

He mentions the establishment of a rival entity, the Party of Citizens' Rights-Zemanites (SPOZ), in 2009 and the attempt by Zeman and Sobotka's opponents in the CSSD to prevent Sobotka's appointment as prime minister after the CSSD's victory in the 2013 general election.

The last straw in Zeman's "symphony of hatred" was undoubtedly his spiteful performance at Prague Castle on May 4, where he pretended to accept Sobotka's resignation as prime minister, which Sobotka never offered to him, Mitrofanov writes.

This spectacle made many of the CSSD members and functionaries, who still felt remnants of respect for Zeman, divert from him definitively, Mitrofanov writes.

Many in the CSSD also definitively realised that Zeman is neither a left- nor a right-wing candidate, but one who seeks personal power only, Mitrofanov writes.

After diverting from Zeman, the CSSD must seek a leftist candidate to support in the direct presidential election. There is a lot of left-wing, non-communist politicians in the country, and it would not be difficult to find one who would run against the Zeman-Babis tandem, Mitrofanov writes.

This would not be enough, however. The Olympic motto "The most important thing is not winning but taking part" does not apply to the presidential race. A weak candidate would only make the camp of Zeman's opponents fragmented and thereby benefit Zeman, Mitrofanov writes.

Sobotka, as a candidate for president, might gain support of far more voters than those left-oriented. He would be a candidate of democrats, Mitrofanov concludes.

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