Prague, March 8 (CTK) – The Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) will elect a new leadership at their national congress in Brno on Friday and Saturday, where PM Bohuslav Sobotka is expected to be re-elected CSSD chairman, though it is not clear how strong support he will receive from the delegates.
The congress is taking place about six months before the general election.
Sobotka is the sole candidate for the post of CSSD chairman.
Both insiders and observers are waiting to see how many of the 700 delegates will support Sobotka and whether he will succeed in pushing through his people in the posts of the CSSD first deputy head and other chairpersons.
Sobotka faced criticism after the CSSD’s failure in the regional and Senate elections last autumn. He reacted by steps such as the replacement of two ministers.
In the past weeks, Sobotka’s nomination for chairman has been backed by all CSSD regional branches except for the South Bohemia branch.
Unlike the other branches, the South Bohemia CSSD decided on the nomination in a secret ballot. According to observers, its rejection of Sobotka may indicate that Sobotka’s success might not be that crushing at the upcoming congress that will choose new leaders by secret balloting.
A significant indicator of Sobotka’s popularity in the CSSD may be the election of the first (statutory) chairman. Sobotka wishes Interior Minister Milan Chovanec’s re-election to the post, which will also be sought by a rival candidate, Jeronym Tejc, a lawmaker and a critic of Sobotka’s leadership.
Out of the party’s regional branches, Chovanec has been nominated by ten and Tejc by three.
Sobotka plans to present his idea of the personnel filling of the posts of deputy chairpersons.
Out of the CSSD’s present deputy heads, re-election will not be sought by Martin Starec, who became the party’s financial director in February.
Regional branches’ nominees for deputy chairpersons are Labour Minister Michaela Marksova, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Deputy Health Minister Lenka Teska Arnostova and Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek, all seeking re-election, and newly also the party’s election manager Jan Birke, Deputy Prague Mayor Petr Dolinek and lawmaker Jaroslav Foldyna.
Apart from personnel issues, the congress will discuss the party’s long-term programme prepared by Zaoralek, and a programme for the CSSD to promote in the general election this October.
The CSSD has already presented parts of the programme that deal with tax policy. However, the proposal to introduce a special tax for banks and a system of progressive income and corporate taxes met with negative reactions and CSSD representatives have shown readiness to modify them.
The course of the CSSD congress might be influenced by President Milos Zeman’s planned March 9 announcement whether he will seek re-election.
The Sobotka-Zeman relation has been rather complicated, they often criticise each other.
The Social Democrats are split on whether they should support Zeman’s candidacy, if he decided to run for president again.
The congress will elect a new party leadership on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, the new chairman’s closing speech will be preceded by the speeches of guests including Slovak PM Robert Fico (Smer-Social Democrats), Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern (Austrian Social Democrats) and also Czech umbrella CMKOS trade union chairman Josef Stredula.
Like two years ago, the CSSD has not invited Zeman to the congress.