Is collaboration with the communists in the cards for the ruling Social Democrats?

18-06-2004

The Social Democrats, the senior members of the Czech Republic's coalition government, have found themselves in an increasingly difficult position following dismal results in recent elections in the European Parliament. Not only is the prime minister facing increased calls to step down as party chairman, he is also threatened by some within his party who would like to see the Social Democrats form a minority government - with tacit support from the Communists. But, that would bring the Communists closer to power than they've been in fourteen years.

Communists Miroslav Grebenicek and Miloslav Ransdorf, photo: CTKCommunists Miroslav Grebenicek and Miloslav Ransdorf, photo: CTK Earlier Jan Velinger spoke with analyst Vaclav Zak to discuss the situation:

"Prime Minister Spidla has decided to fight. He will try to convince the party that his policies are good ones, and will try to defend his position as party chairman as well as prime minister. But, it's true that within the Social Democratic Party there are three regions from fourteen proposing the German model: that means that some other person would lead the party, while Mr Spidla would remain prime minister in the government."

There has also been discussion about the coalition government breaking up. One faction of the Social Democratic Party would like to see the party form a minority government with the tacit support of the Communists, indeed low-level discussions are already underway. I wanted to ask you if you thought it was "time" for the Communist Party to play such a role on the Czech political scene, given their strong showing in the recent elections.

"Well, you know, I was always from the very beginning for involving the Communist Party. I thought it was a mistake to exclude the communists from decisions because in that way they remained unconnected to any troubles that the transformation period brought. And, it's clear that that happened. Now the communists are the only party not connected to any corruption and scandals connected to privatisation and so they have larger popular support. But, in the long run I would say there are many people within the Social Democratic Party that really cannot imagine collaborating with the communist party. I don't see that the majority of Social Democrats would be willing to support such a change."

Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTKVladimir Spidla, photo: CTK The Social Democrats have lost a large part of their voter base since the last elections and they've lost many of those voters to the Communist Party. How should they deal with being between 'a rock and a hard place' so to speak? They are, on the one hand, in a coalition government where they have been criticised by more left-leaning Social Democrats to giving too many concessions to right-of centre parties within the coalition, and on the other if they cooperate with the communists the party lines become blurred. Is that not a problem?

"I wouldn't agree with your first statement. I'm not sure we can interpret the results of the election as you say. You know, the turn-out was so low that it's hard to say that the former voters now voted for the communists. Of course, every Social Democratic government that tries to reform the social state is in a very sensitive position. All I can say is that if they succeed with reforms and don't increase any more debt, they can gain reform-minded voters back. Otherwise, you are right that they can't be as radical as the communists, so collaboration with the communists could damage them."

18-06-2004