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HN: ČSSD needs resolute leader, not Sobotka

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Prague, Nov 2 (CTK) – If the Czech Social Democrats (CSSD) want to have a chance to defeat the ANO movement, they cannot be led by the timid Bohuslav Sobotka, but need some resolute socialist whose political style would be similar to that of Jiri Paroubek, David Klimes writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Wednesday.

The latest opinion poll showed that ANO is supported by two times more people than the CSSD, which was rather unsuccessful in the recent Senate and regional elections. The Social Democrats wish to defend the post of prime minister in the general election scheduled for next autumn. If they really want to fight for the post, the party must stop avoiding a discussion about how it could look like with a different leader than Sobotka, Klimes writes.

But does the CSSD have somebody like Paroubek who led the party in 2005-2010? he says.

The energetic Interior Minister Milan Chovanec is not the man the party is seeking. Anybody who heard his horrible address at the CSSD congress last spring must be aware of this, Klimes writes.

The successful regional governor Jiri Zimola has little experience with top politics, he adds.

Sobotka might be prime minister until the general election, but he could hand the post of party leader to somebody else who would be able to attack Finance Minister and ANO leader Andrej Babis more sharply. Would Babis’s position be really so easy if he was faced by genuine socialist Michaela Marksova, present labour minister, instead of the shy liberal Sobotka? Klimes writes.

He says the regional elections ended the 33-month story about the character of the government coalition of the CSSD and ANO. Both parties entered the alliance with a clear vision of how to outsmart their partner-rival, Klimes writes.

He says the CSSD believed that government responsibility would tame the popular but problematic and permanently protesting ANO and that the CSSD would be generally considered the more trustworthy option before the next parliamentary elections.

ANO expected that the rather outdated CSSD would help it rule the country and that the voters would understand that this political marriage was merely a preparation for a divorce after the 2017 general election, Klimes writes.

In the present situation, the parties do not have to wait for the general election to divorce, he says.

Sobotka profited from the fact that there was nobody more acceptable in the CSSD. When the camp of Ivan Hasek supported by President Milos Zeman wanted to remove him from the post of leader and future prime minister shortly after the late 2013 elections, Sobotka won enough support among the Social Democrats to survive the attempted coup. Even voters of other parties support him because nobody else has so much political power to face Babis, Klimes writes.

But after the regional elections, Sobotka proposed to focus on environmental and cultural issues and digital economy, which is a vision good for a leader of a centre-right liberal party, but not for the ailing CSSD. Even if Sobotka decided to promote the tiny liberal wing in his party, he would have to be trustworthy for the liberal voters, which he will never be, Klimes writes, referring to Sobotka’s pro-Chinese statement and his criticism of a minister’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The CSSD has become a mass party thanks to its former leader Zeman who won over hundreds of thousands of nationalist and conservative voters. Since Sobotka can never appeal to these people, they are moving to the Communists (KSCM) and even more to ANO that got rid of its original liberal slogans, Klimes writes.

Sobotka is in a position similar to Vladimir Spidla in 2004: he suffered several bad defeats, the popularity of the CSSD is plummeting and the end is coming soon. It is no coincidence that Spidla is Sobotka’s chief aide, Klimes says.

However, the resignation of Spidla from the posts of prime minister and CSSD chairman is also a memento for the party: a bad leader may be followed by an even worse one, Stanislav Gross, Klimes writes.

He says the party is looking for somebody somewhat similar to Gross’s successor Paroubek. Yes, the arrogant Paroubek who turned all the others into his enemies. But Paroubek managed to make the CSSD popular once again, increasing its preferences from 10 to 30 percent. Moreover, Paroubek’s rival was Civic Democrat (ODS) leader Mirek Topolanek who was extremely self-centred like Babis is now, Klimes writes.

The Social Democrats need to be led by a resolute politician, he concludes.

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