Current Affairs Social Democrat MP Jan Hamáček: Communist Party’s strong showing in regional elections should be a lesson to us
With talks underway on forming regional governments, the Social Democratic Party is still coming to terms with the fact that although it came first in last weekend’s regional elections it is the Communist Party which is regarded as the real winner. The Social Democrats failed to defend their 2008 victory in all 13 regions, coming first in 9, while the Communists won in two and came hard on their heels in most of the others, giving them the chance to drive a hard bargain in regional administration. Radio Prague spoke to Social Democrats deputy Jan Hamáček about the reasons behind the Communist Party’s strong showing and what it may signify for the future.
“I see several reasons for that (Communist Party’s strong showing). One reason is that the Communists didn’t need to do much campaigning ahead of the elections, they had two excellent campaign managers –one is Petr Nečas (prime minister) and the other is Miroslav Kalousek (finance minister) so you could say the government did the campaigning for them. The second reason is the very low turnout –approximately 30 percent – which is fairly low for nationwide elections and the third reason (here I must be critical of my own party) is that the Social Democrats were plagued by corruption scandals such as that surrounding the former central Bohemian governor David Rath and the arrest of our deputy governor in the Usti region. So I think that those three factors combined resulted in the fact that the Communists came second.”
The communists will now have a greater say in decision-making in the regions. Will that be a problem for the Social Democratic Party?
“I don’t think it will be a problem provided that we take this as an opportunity and try to find our way back to voters and convince them that we are the leading force of the opposition and that we are able to learn from our mistakes and deal with issues that trouble us. I think that in particular the results of our party in northern Bohemia – I mean in Usti and Liberec – call for radical action towards our regional party structures. We must take this opportunity and convince the people that we are able to rid ourselves of those who are troubling the party.”
The outcome of last weekend’s regional elections has given the Communist Party a new-found confidence. Is there talk among the Social Democrats that it may be time to revise the 1995 Bohumín resolution on not cooperating with the Communists on a government level?
“Obviously we do have these debates and the results of the elections have only intensified them. We shall discuss the matter further and come to a conclusion at our party congress which will be early next year. I am convinced that we will find a solution. “
“I do not have an answer to that. I would guess that people are more ready than they were a couple of years ago, but I still think that we should be very cautious because especially when it comes to national security and foreign policy the views of the Social Democrats and the Communists diverge dramatically and I do not think we should put these important areas at stake.”