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LN: Communists in govt would weaken Czech ties with West

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Prague, Feb 21 (CTK) – The Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) will probably lose the remnants of their liberal voters and cause the ties between Prague and the West to weaken by their latest trend of embracing the Communists (KSCM) as a potential government partner, Josef Mlejnek writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) yesterday.
Prime Minister and CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka has caused uproar by stating that forming a coalition government with the KSCM, now the strongest opposition party, would be no problem for the CSSD and that the CSSD’s old Bohumin resolution binding it to shun such cooperation has become obsolete, Mlejnek writes.
Of course, this is Sobotka’s gesture before the October general election, but it is quite desperate and confused, he writes.
The vow to shun cooperation with the KSCM has always caused troubles to the CSSD, because the KSCM has been a strong leftist party but unacceptable as a government partner [due to its undemocratic label]. This posed a handicap for the CSSD’s chance to form coalitions, compared with the right-wing camp, Mlejnek writes.
The CSSD’s mid-1990s Bohumin vow was a message to voters that the CSSD is no crypto-communist party. Under its then leader, Milos Zeman, the CSSD gained about 30 percent of the vote in elections. However, the KSCM did not weaken, and the 30-percent gain was not enough for the CSSD to form a one-party government. As a result, the Bohumin resolution became a heavier and heavier burden for the CSSD, Mlejnek writes.
After the general election in 1998, the CSSD and the KSCM narrowly failed to gain a joint majority, but in the 2002-2006 election term they had together 111 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, comfortably outnumbering the rightist camp.
The CSSD then formed a government with the centrist Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the rightist Freedom Union, but PM and CSSD leader Jiri Paroubek pushed a series of bills through parliament together with the KSCM, Mlejnek writes.
The mid-2006 election produced a 100-100 stalemate in the Chamber of Deputies, which prevented Paroubek’s CSSD from forming a CSSD-KSCM government. Nevertheless, Paroubek made a try by seeking to form a minority government of the CSSD and the KDU-CSL that would be supported by the KSCM in parliament. The plan bogged down in protests of the KDU-CSL rank-and-file, however, and the CSSD ended in opposition, Mlejnek writes.
In the following period, the CSSD allied with the KSCM in a number of regional governments, thereby preparing conditions for a joint governance on the national level. The KSCM, led by pragmatic Vojtech Filip, has adapted its tactics and refrained from radical rhetoric in order to boost the prospect of mutual cooperation, Mlejnek writes.
The dream about a CSSD-KSCM coalition, however, dissipated in the general elections of 2010 and 2013, in which their joint election gain dropped to 33-36 percent, compared with 43-49 percent in the period between 1998 and 2006, Mlejnek writes.
The decline was mainly caused by the rise of new entities, such as the Public Affairs (VV), the ANO movement and the Dawn movement, all based almost exclusively on marketing and hardly definable on the right-left political scale, Mlejnek writes.
It is mainly the CSSD whose popularity has sharply decreased and has been oscillating around or rather below 20 percent since 2010. The KSCM, for its part, has seen its popularity stable at 10-15 percent.
The two parties’ popularity is becoming equal, and the CSSD can hardly claim the role of the left leader, Mlejnek writes.
The model of the radical left swallowed by the moderate left, known from France, has evidently failed on the Czech scene, he writes.
By its recent decision to embrace the KSCM, the CSSD will probably lose its last liberal voters, mostly young residents of cities, who are sensitive to the two main differences that have distinguished the CSSD from the KSCM so far. First, it is their different relation to the communist regime, which is positive on the part of the KSCM.
The other key difference is foreign policy, especially Czech membership of the EU and NATO. The KSCM has been challenging it and it cannot stop doing so if it wants to preserve its identity, Mlejnek writes.
A government including the KSCM would mean a weakening of Czech ties with Western institutions at least, he writes.
Nevertheless, the emergence of a CSSD-KSCM government is highly improbable now that the two parties seem to have no chance of gaining a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, judging by their current voter preferences, Mlejnek adds.

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