- A majority of members in the broader Social Democrat leadership have called on party leader Bohuslav Sobotka to step down.
- Mr Sobotka has responded by saying he will not heed the call but defend his party's principles.
- ANO 2011 leader Andrej Babiš has said that a coalition with the Social and Christian Democrats is a possibility.
Social Democrat leadership calls on Sobotka to resign
The broader party leadership of the Social Democratic Party has called on leader Bohuslav Sobotka to resign. Twenty members of the party’s praesidium on Sunday voted in favour of the motion, 13 were against. The party leadership also called for Mr Sobotka to be sidelined from the four-member team designated to negotiate on the new government. The team is to be led by deputy leader Michal Hašek; others members are Lubomír Zaorálek, Milan Chovanec and Jeroným Tejc. Some Social Democrats expressed shock over the developments; Euro MP Richard Falbr called the move an “assassination”.
In a press briefing on Sunday, Bohuslav Sobotka responded by saying he would not step down, and would pursue the post of prime minister in the next government. He challenged his critics by saying he would not let the Social Democratic Party lose its independence and come under the influence of Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites, the party close to President Miloš Zeman which posted a dismal result in Saturday’s election.
Two factions within the Social Democratic Party have been fighting for control for some time, one of them leaning strongly towards the head-of-state. Miloš Zeman, sources reported, met in secret with deputy leader Michal Hašek and others following the election on Saturday.
Hašek comes out against Sobotka day after election
Deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party, Michal Hašek, had strong words for the party’s chairman Bohuslav Sobotka on Sunday, saying that if he had secured such a poor result in the election he would have resigned. Mr Hašek was referring to the party’s somewhat Pyrrhic victory at the weekend which left the Social Democrats with only 20.5 percent of the vote (far less than the 30 percent sought by the current leader).
Mr Hašek, long a potential challenger to Mr Sobotka and a politician with close ties to the current president, Miloš Zeman, spoke to the Czech News Agency about the result and compared the situation to three-and-a-half years ago when the party secured a similarly weak victory and then-party leader Jiří Paroubek wasted no time in stepping down.
Mr Sobotka responded on Sunday by saying he intended to hold coalition talks with the Christian Democrats and ANO 2011, and saying he was in favour of an extraordinary leadership convention being held in March of 2014.
Hašek & co. meet in secret with president
In related news, sources including Novinky.cz, are reporting that Mr Hašek, deputies club former head of Jeroným Tejc and long-time Zeman supporter Zdeněk Škromach met in secret with President Miloš Zeman on Saturday evening. None of the politicians have commented, no details have been disclosed. Mr Hašek was accused by leader Bohuslav Sobotka of sewing discord within the party in the run up to the early election.
Coalition a possibility
In related news, ANO leader Andrej Babiš has said that a coalition between his party, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats was a possibility, providing the parties were able to find agreement on programme priorities. He made clear that if ANO entered into a coalition he was interested iin the post of finance minister. Mr Babiš stressed he had heard no word from the Social Democrats yet.
Poll: four-fifths of Czechs skeptical election results will resolve ongoing political crisis
Four-fifths of Czechs do not think Saturday’s election results will resolve the ongoing political crisis, according to a new poll commissioned by public broadcaster Czech TV. On Saturday, the Social Democrats won the elections but far less decisively than many expected. Second in the election was ANO 2011, an upstart party led by billionaire businessman turned politician Andrej Babiš, which finished close behind the winners. Earlier on Saturday, Mr Babiš suggested he would not back a Social Democrat-led government, but his party has since changed tack. It is apparent that the winners, the Social Democrats, will, at the very least, face difficult negotiations in forming a ruling coalition or forming a minority government.
International media: Babiš the real winner
International media such as the Financial Times reporting on the Czech election noted that Mr Babiš was the de facto winner on Saturday, as it was unlikely a stable government could be formed without his party’s consent (or less plausibly, the Communists’). Members of the right-wing parties formerly in government, such as TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg, said on Saturday they did not expect the next government to be a stable one. The former foreign minister suggested that the country could face early elections within two years. Both TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats (the latter suffering an historic defeat in the election) said they will head into opposition.
Sobotka says he will step down if he fails to put together government
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka has admitted that Saturday’s result was less than he or his party expected but said his party would nevertheless try and form a stable government, while upholding programme priorities. On Saturday, he said he would head a negotiating team that would meet with all of the parties in the lower house, with the exception of the right-of-centre TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats. He also said that if he failed to put together a new government, he would step down.
On Saturday evening, members of the Social Democrats met for early talks with representatives of the Communist Party, including party leader Vojtěch Filip. The meeting lasted 45 minutes, and touched briefly on programme priorities and other areas, according to reports.
ANO’s Stropnický suggests there are grounds for negotiation with Social Democrats
Martin Stropnický, an actor turned politician who ran for ANO 2011 which came in second on Saturday, has suggested that his grouping’s programme priorities are “61 percent compatible” with that of the Social Democrats. Speaking in a TV debate programme on commercial broadcaster TV Prima on Sunday, Mr Stropnický said that was grounds for “rational negotiation”. According to Stropnický, cooperation between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats (who successfully returned to the lower house after a 3.5 year absence) was a possibility. Political analysts, reflecting on Saturday’s results, have also suggested that a consensus between the three was more probable than other scenarios. There are suggestions that the three could form either a ruling coalition with a comfortable majority of 111 in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies, or that the Social Democrats could form a minority government with their backing.
Stalemate expected to play into president’s hands
The election results, seen largely as continuing a stalemate in Czech politics, will play into the hands of President Miloš Zeman, pundits and numerous media suggest. Mr Zeman has been seen as trying to increase the powers of the presidency since assuming office and on Friday he suggested he could help the next prime minister-designate form a government if need be, an option rejected by the leaders of most of the parties in the lower house. In a post-election debate on Saturday, leaders, including deputy leader of the Civic Democrats Miroslava Němcova, suggested, such a role by the president was unacceptable.
Zeman assesses results
On Czech TV on Sunday, President Zeman said the election results showed that both the former coalition as well as the former opposition had “failed”. But the president shrugged off any responsibility for the dismal result of Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites (founded in his name), by suggesting that backing by the head-of-state was a “kiss of death”. He compared earlier support that the late Václav Havel expressed for the Green Party or that his predecessor Václav Klaus expressed for a right-wing bloc this year, as examples. Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites picked up just 1.5 percent of the vote on Saturday, well below the five percent needed; it is the second time the party has failed to make it into the lower house.
Civic Democrats’ Pospíšil on election debacle
In related news, Jiří Pospíšil, a deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party and former justice minister, has told news site iDnes that former president Václav Klaus’s support for the right-wing bloc Heads Up (or Chin Up) – which suffered defeat on Saturday - spelled his political end. The former minister also expressed disappointment that the former president had turned against the party he once led, referring to his actions as “mudslinging”.
Regarding his own party’s dismal 7.7 percent result, Mr Pospíšil called it a “debacle” and said the Civic Democrats had been given a last chance to turn things around. He stressed that a new leadership would need to be elected and that the party – in opposition – needed to focus on quality politics. Mr Pospíšil is one of 16 Civic Democrat MPs elected on Saturday; previously the party had 53.
Tennis: Kvitová loses to Li Na in Istanbul
Czech women’s tennis star Petra Kvitová lost to China’s Li Na in the WTA Championships semi-final on Saturday in Istanbul. Kvitová lost in straight sets: the final score was 4:6, 2:6.
The beginning of the week should be partly overcast with sunny periods. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of around 20 degrees Celsius.