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Právo: Some ČSSD members against presidential referendum

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Prague, March 30 (CTK) – The Czech Prime Minister and Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, has promoted an intra-party referendum on the party’s candidate for the direct presidential election next year, but some of his colleagues are dissuading him from the idea, daily Pravo writes yesterday.

They consider the poll an unnecessary loss of time and say it can eventually harm the party, Pravo writes.

“Let us allow the citizens to make a decision. In addition, they have shown that they do not cast their votes based on the recommendation of the parties they usually vote for in the general election,” Hradec Kralove Region Governor Jiri
Stepan (CSSD) told Pravo.

Plzen Region Governor Josef Bernard said “no intra-party referendum is needed. It is an individual choice. The candidates should seek support of all citizens,” he told Pravo.

Pardubice Region Governor Martin Netolicky said a referendum may split the party as it happened in 2002, when the president was still elected by parliament.

Zeman then gained the highest support within the party, yet former justice minister Jaroslav Bures became the first candidate of the party. Zeman only took part in the second round, but he failed and Vaclav Klaus became the president, Pravo writes.

Netolicky said the party may not eventually support anyone. “To spend money on a referendum or a presidential campaign is unnecessary. More important elections are ahead of us, whether the general election or the local election next year,” he said and added that more than 50 percent of members will anyway vote for Zeman.

Zeman was a CSSD chairman and prime minister in the past. He left the party in 2007 over disputes with its leadership.

Some party members say Zeman is not pushing for leftist topics and is not therefore in line with the party, Pravo writes.
It writes that support for the “non-leftist” Zeman could confuse some voters at a time when the CSSD wants to win over people with a greater emphasis on leftist themes, Pravo writes.
Some leading party members say the referendum could be moved from summer as planned to the autumn – shortly before and after the general election, Pravo writes.
Besides the CSSD, the ANO movement of Finance Minister Andrej Babis also considers holding a referendum on the presidential candidate, Pravo writes.
However, the CSSD has more than 20,000 members and the voting would probably be held by correspondence, ANO with some 3000 people would be in a better situation. Its members would probably vote online, Pravo writes.
The junior government party, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), is in no rush. It is waiting for the final list of candidates to be released before they make a decision on which candidate to support, Pravo writes.
It writes that the CSSD held the latest referendum in 2014, in which it approved a limitation of the accumulation of paid public posts, the voting of all members on lists of candidates and a 40-percent quota for women on the lists.

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