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ČSSD gets ready for general election, competes with ANO

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Prague, March 8 (CTK) – Major development in the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) between its latest election congress held on March 13-14, 2015 and its forthcoming two-day election congress that will start in Brno on Friday, March 10:
– At the CSSD congress held two years ago, a new leadership and new statutes of the party were approved. Bohuslav Sobotka clearly defended his post of chairman, having won 85 percent. His position strengthened and only his allies were elected to the new leadership. Sobotka also pushed through changes to the statutes, according to which at least 40 percent of CSSD election candidates must be women and all CSSD members can take part in the selection of the candidates.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, Sobotka’s favourite, was elected first deputy chairman. However, the rival candidate, Sobotka’s critic Jeronym Tejc, gained a rather strong support, which made this election dramatic.
– Same as Sobotka and Chovanec, the regular deputy heads elected at the congress – Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova, Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek, Deputy Health Minister Lenka Teska Arnostova and the party’s treasurer Martin Starec – have kept their posts until now. Liberal Jiri Dienstbier was among the failed candidates.
– The CSSD criticised its coalition partner, the ANO movement of Andrej Babis, at the congress, but it did not challenge the government coalition. The party has been competing with ANO, which is the favourite of the autumn general election and therefore its main rival. The two parties often clashed and the sharpest disputes concerned a police overhaul and an amendment to the law on the conflict of interest dubbed Lex Babis.
– In the past two years, the CSSD election results were worse than they had been before. In the 2016 regional elections it only won in two out of 13 regions, but it has five regional governors thanks to the post-election negotiations. However, before the elections the CSSD had 11 governors. In the Senate elections held simultaneously, the CSSD won only two of the 27 seats contested, while ANO won three senators and the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) six. The CSSD nevertheless still has the strongest group in the Senate.
– The CSSD replaced four of its eight ministers in the past two years. In June 2015, Katerina Valachova (unaffiliated, she joined CSSD afterwards) replaced Marcel Chladek who was dismissed over alleged bullying of his subordinates. In November 2016, Sobotka proposed the dismissals of Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek and Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier, arguing that the cabinet needs to be more dynamic. Nemecek was replaced by Prague-Motol University Hospital director Miloslav Ludvik, Dienstbier by MP Jan Chvojka. Last month, Sobotka dismissed Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek and he has temporarily taken control of the ministry himself.
At present, the CSSD is preparing for the autumn elections to the Chamber of Deputies. In January, local politician Jan Birke was named the party’s election manager. Sobotka also presented some of the party’s priorities, such as progressive taxation and a special tax imposed on banks, which was criticised by other parties and some professions.
– CSSD lost a court dispute with lawyer Zdenek Altner who demands a high financial compensation for his legal services from the party. The CSSD is to pay 338 million crowns to him according to the verdict, but the Supreme Court accepted its appeal and is dealing with the case. Altner recently died and the court case will continue only after the probate proceeding on his inheritance ends.
– The CSSD was affected by corruption scandals related to the Vidkun case, in which former regional governor Jiri Rozboril (CSSD) is among the suspects, and the abuse of EU subsidies in north-west Bohemia, in which former governor Jana Vanhova and former heads of two CSSD regional branches seem to be involved.
($1=25.547 crowns)

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