Saturday, 24 March 2018

Analysts: Choice of Hamáček indicates no big change of ČSSD

20 February 2018

Prague, Feb 19 (CTK) - The fresh election of Jan Hamacek as the Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) head indicates no radical change of the party, according to experts CTK addressed on Monday, some of whom praised the CSSD's plan to launch government-forming talks with ANO, while others called it unfortunate.

The party's extraordinary congress elected a new leadership in reation to the CSSD's crushing defeat in the October 2017 general election.

"The choice of Jan Hamacek for chairman is not surprising after all. He was the favourite in the election [on Sunday], nominated by most of the party's regional branches," political analyst Kamil Svec said, adding that this is a picture of the current CSSD.

"The party, which marks 140 years of its existence this year, has been incapable of generating a leader who could address a far broader public," Svec said.

Hamacek, former CSSD deputy head, and former chairman and current deputy chairman of the lower house of parliament, won support at the CSSD election congress as the only candidate who is minded by neither the party's pro-modernisation wing of ex-chairman and ex-PM Bohuslav Sobotka nor the rather traditionalist wing close to President Milos Zeman, said analyst Daniel Kunstat.

Kunstat, too, said the CSSD has found no energy to promote a "new figure." The time required a more resolute change, he said, adding that Hamacek is one of CSSD's faces with the highest publicity so far.

Hamacek would be a suitable chairman if the CSSD wanted him only for an interim leader pending the emergence of a new face, Kunstat said.

According to political analyst Lubomir Kopecek, the election of Jiri Zimola, one of the leading critics of the previous leadership, as the party's first deputy chairman looks as a step outweighing the chairmanship of Hamacek.

Referring to Zimola's failure to become chairman, Kunstat said it is dangerous for any chairperson to have a deputy chairperson with an ambition to lead the party.

"Zimola is not an ideal first deputy chairman," Kunstat said.

Analyst Tomas Lebeda said it will depend on whether the new leadership will start promoting the party in a new way and if it succeeds in regaining support of the voters who previously abandoned it, switching mainly to the ANO movement.

ANO won last autumn's general election and its leader Andrej Babis is expected to form a second government after his first one failed to win parliament's confidence in January.

"If the CSSD starts government cooperation negotiations with ANO, as the two [Hamacek and Zimola] have envisaged, the situation would be quite unfortunate from the point of view of the CSSD's revitalisation," said Kopecek.

Should the CSSD have a chance to improve its current 7-percent voter preferences, it should not do so in the role of a partner of someone (ANO), who had taken a large part of electorate away from it, Kopecek said.

Political analyst Zdenek Zboril, for his part, considers the CSSD's joining an ANO government the last chance for it to remain visible in Czech politics.

"If the CSSD remained in opposition, it could eventually completely disappear from parliament," Zboril said.

According to Kunstat, "a CSSD-ANO deal will certainly be struck" and a government involving the two parties will emerge.

ANO and the CSSD have 78 and 15 lawmakers in the 200-seat lower house, respectively. Their two-party government would have to be kept afloat by a third ally. Observers mention the Communists (KSCM, 15 seats) most often in this connection.

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