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Zimola wants ČSSD to join talks about next government

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Prague, Feb 6 (CTK) – Former regional governor Jiri Zimola, who is running for Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman, would like the party to negotiate about a government coalition with the ANO movement of Andrej Babis, but he would respect the stance supported by a majority in the CSSD, he told CTK on Tuesday.

Zimola said he is a victorious type of leader who has experience with promoting the socialist programme on the local and regional levels. He said successful mayors and governors should join the CSSD leadership.

Along with CSSD acting head and former interior minister Milan Chovanec and lower house deputy head Jan Hamacek, Zimola is one of the favourites for the party’s leader before its election congress that will be held on January 18.

Zimola said he decided to run for CSSD chairman also because he could see no self-reflection among the party’s current leadership after the election failure.

Last autumn, the CSSD won only 15 MPs in the 200-seat lower house of parliament, which has been its worst result in a general election so far.

“I watched the election result in a shock and expected some reflection of the current leadership. Unfortunately, this has not happened,” Zimola said.

He said he made the final decision to run for the party’s leader when Chovanec announced his candidacy.

First of all, the CSSD needs to decide at the election congress or soon after it whether to try to form a government with ANO and whether to accept Babis as prime minister, although he has been prosecuted over an alleged EU subsidy fraud.

In relation to Babis, Zimola said he respects the presumption of innocence.

It is the ANO movement that is responsible for the nomination of Babis for prime minister, he added. “This is the right of the election winner but it is also the winner’s responsibility with regard to the interests of the country,” he said.

In case of negotiations about the next government, tolerance of the government or moving into opposition, an internal referendum of CSSD members could be held, Zimola said. Such a decision should not be made by a narrow party leadership, he added.

Babis indicated he considered a government alliance with the CSSD the best possible alternative. However, ANO has 78 MPs, which means that support from yet another party would be needed, possibly the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) or the Communists (KSCM).

Zimola said he feels sorry that the Social Democrats failed to become united on their support for Milos Zeman before the recent presidential election.

“Some CSSD politicians have the feeling that Milos Zeman is not a social democrat and that he harms the CSSD, but a large part of CSSD members and voters hold the opposite view,” Zimola said.

In January, President Zeman was re-elected the head of state. Zeman is a former CSSD leader, but he left the party and a new grouping formed around him several years ago. Zimola has always been close to Zeman, while the liberal camp around former CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka, who was prime minister in 2014-2017, repeatedly clashed with Zeman in the past few years. Zimola was among the CSSD politicians who failed to oust Sobotka as party leader after the 2013 elections.

“We need to seek a constructive agreement with the president. Both sides should forget old wrongs and look into the future. I expect the president to tell something like this to the delegates to the (CSSD election) congress,” Zimola said.

Zimola said he wants to offer CSSD members an alternative. He said he himself won in all elections in which he ran.

Zimola defended the post of South Bohemia governor twice. Last year, he was forced to resign due to unclear financing of his countryside house and the CSSD leadership deleted him from the list of candidates running in the general election. A number of CSSD politicians from South Bohemia gave up their candidacy in protest.

In his letter to CSSD members, Zimola said the party is in a state of clinical death. The party now needs a good doctor to survive, he said.

Zimola said there are a number of streams in the CSSD but all of them are socialist. An open discussion should take place and all streams should be respected, he said.

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