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Právo: Sinking ČSSD must unite to regain leading position

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Prague, Nov 1 (CTK) – The Czech government Social Democrats (CSSD) have been receiving one blow after another in recent weeks, and they must unite to save their position among the leading parties, political scientist Lukas Jelinek writes in daily Pravo on Tuesday.

Last month, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s CSSD failed in the regional as well as Senate elections. On Monday, the CSSD ended only third, after the ANO movement and the Communists (KSCM), in the STEM agency’s party popularity poll, Jelinek writes.

For many previous months, the CSSD was the runner-up in similar polls, followed by the KSCM in the third position.

The CSSD’s current third position is to blame on its weak voter core, or the number of loyal and reliable supporters. The opposition KSCM has always had a stronger voter core, and Finance Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO movement has generated a strong one as well, Jelinek writes.

Sociologists say a number of lukewarm fans claimed their support for the CSSD before the October regional and Senate elections, but finally they did not cast their ballots for it, Jelinek writes.

The number of the CSSD’s loyal supporters evidently does not exceed the 14 percent showed by the STEM poll, Jelinek writes.

STEM conducted the poll before and after the second round of the Senate election, and its results probably mirror the syndrome of a humiliated party, Jelinek continues.

The public opinion loves winners and eagerly sides with them. In addition, Babis made no mistakes after the regional election results were declared, while many voters resented the post-election developments when ANO was ousted into opposition even in the regions where it won, Jelinek writes.

The CSSD definitely harmed itself by making scared and defeatist comments on its prospects in the next general election due in 2017, combined with suggestions who might replace Sobotka at the party’s head and whether the replacement should seek President Milos Zeman’s support, Jelinek writes.

Demoralisation is the best word to describe the present atmosphere in the CSSD, he writes.

Sobotka has praiseworthily suggested that the CSSD should address new voters – younger, more educated and town residents, similar to those who usually support social democracies in the West. However, he forgot to add that this does not mean the abandoning of the party’s traditional voters, Jelinek writes.

However, young liberal voters feel discouraged by the CSSD’s reaction to a meeting Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) had with the Dalai Lama, Jelinek writes.

Sobotka and the heads of the two houses of parliament distanced themselves from the Herman-Dalai Lama meeting and, together with Zeman, they confirmed Prague’s respect for China’s integrity in an official statement. A number of critics condemned the statement as humiliating and servile to China.

This controversy occurred only after the STEM poll ended, and it will influence only the next poll’s results, Jelinek writes.

It is uncertain whether the counter-offensive that the CSSD deputy chairmen and ministers, Lubomir Zaoralek and Milan Chovanec, launched on Sunday, will help boost the party’s popularity. Will the CSSD’s fans appreciate the two for not giving up but launching a crusade? Or will the critics of the CSSD as an old-fashioned and unreformable party continue to prevail? Jelinek asks.

The problem rests in the CSSD politicians who live isolated from voters and incapable of admitting that the party consists of two streams that must learn live together, Jelinek writes.

The CSSD should unite to try to save as much as possible of its leading position. If it allows an internal struggle to flare up, it will pay dear for it, mainly in comparison with its disciplined rivals ANO and the KSCM, Jelinek adds.

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