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Staněk as bidder for chairmanship prefers ČSSD’s gov’t entry

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Prague, Feb 7 (CTK) – Antonin Stanek, a Czech MP and Mayor of Olomouc who runs for Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman, would prefer the CSSD forming a cabinet with ANO to switching into opposition, he told CTK ahead of the CSSD congress that is to elect the party’s new leadership and debate its approach to ANO.

Stanek is one of the six candidates for chairman nominated by the party’s regional branches in the past weeks. He was nominated by the CSSD Olomouc branch.

Andrej Babis’s ANO movement won the October 2017 general election. Its minority cabinet failed to win parliament’s confidence in January when ANO launched talks on forming a new cabinet. Eyeing the CSSD as a potential partner, ANO representatives say they are waiting for the position of the new CSSD leadership to emerge from the congress, due on February 18.

Stanek said he would not be for the CSSD to indirectly support another minority cabinet of ANO by leaving the Chamber of Deputies before the confidence vote.

“We should either be part of the government or switch into opposition. I would find it unfortunate for us to take an in-between position, which is not much transparent and no one knows whether you will support this or that bill,” Stanek said, adding that he prefers the CSSD’s government entry as a step enabling the party to push through its programme.

In January, CSSD acting head Milan Chovanec, who will also run for chairman at the congress, set several conditions for ANO to meet, should the CSSD start negotiations on government cooperation with it.

The conditions include the demand for ANO to give up selected ministries and not to nominate prosecuted persons for government positions.

Babis, the outgoing and probably also next prime minister, faces prosecution for a suspected EU subsidy fraud.

Stanek told CTK that Chovanec’s conditions played a role in the given moment. “Nevertheless, politics rests in seeking compromises and reflecting of what is possible,” Stanek said, adding that the CSSD has only 15 seats in the 200-seat lower house and has to take this into account in negotiations.

He said political reality must also be taken into account in the case of Babis, who, despite being prosecuted for suspected fraud, smoothly won the general elections.

“The voters sent a clear signal that this [Babis’s prosecution] is no insurmountable problem to them,” Stanek said.

He said the CSSD, too, is considering nodding to accused politicians’ presence on election lists of candidates, and seeing only the imposition of criminal charges as an obstacle, otherwise criminal complaints can be used as an instrument in political struggle.

Stanek said he considers it his advantage that he is not linked to either of the CSSD’s two main streams that have been in discord on basic issues, such as the party’s relation with its former chairman and current Czech President Milos Zeman, in recent years.

The task of the new chairman will be to unite the streams so that the CSSD act outwardly as a strong coherent unit, he said.

“I will offer a very neutral position to the congress. My victory need not threaten either of the streams. I think I have experience with uniting different opinion streams and picking positive aspects from each,” Stanek told CTK.

He said the CSSD must improve its way of presenting its stances to the public. “I am convinced that the CSSD’s values and goals still have a place on the Czech political scene,” he said.

Since 2006, the CSSD has lost more than 1.3 million voters because it ceased to be a party people would vote for. “We must change this,” Stanek said.

The CSSD has convoked the extraordinary congress in reaction to its debacle in the autumn general election, in which it emerged with 15 lower house seats, compared with its previous 50.

According to observers, the favourite candidate for CSSD chairmanship is Jan Hamacek, the party’s current deputy head who has been nominated by five regional branches, followed by Chovanec with three nominations.

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