Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Zeman's SPO wants close cooperation with ČSSD

ČTK |
21 February 2018

Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) - The Czech Party of Citizens' Rights (SPO) would like to closely cooperate or even merge with the Social Democrats (CSSD), SPO chairman Jan Veleba told Tuesday's issue of daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) after the CSSD election congress held on Sunday.

"It was a pleasant surprise for me to see that reasonable Social Democrats were elected as leaders, especially the new first deputy chairman," Veleba said about former regional governor Jiri Zimola who has good relations with President Milos Zeman.

Eight years ago, the SPO formed around Zeman who has been its honorary chairman since 2010. Zeman was CSSD leader in 1993-2001.

"It confirmed the failure of the politics of Bohuslav Sobotka, due to which many people left the CSSD and founded the SPO," Veleba said, referring to the CSSD weekend congress.

Sobotka was CSSD chairman in 2011-2017 and prime minister in 2014-17.

"Maybe it is time to stop dividing the forces on the left wing and cooperate," he said.

"The former CSSD leadership rejected Zeman, but the present leadership seems to have good relations with him. It is hard to assess it one day after the congress, but I will certainly look for ways to cooperate," SPO first deputy chairman Marian Keremidsky, a former CSSD member, told MfD.

"If the CSSD revives, and the new leadership gives hope for it, we can talk at least about some form of very close cooperation. Our programme is more or less the same," Veleba said.

New CSSD chairman Hamacek dismissed the idea. "I heard about such a thing for the first time, but I consider it wishful thinking of some SPO representatives," he told the paper.

Veleba plans to present his proposal for cooperation with the Social Democrats to the SPO at its extraordinary congress in March. He proposes that SPO politicians run on the CSSD lists of candidates in the autumn local elections and that the two parties closely cooperate also in the Senate elections that will be held simultaneously.

"I know CSSD representatives in South Moravia and the communication is not bad. We surely may discuss our support for CSSD lists of candidates for the local elections," Keremidsky said.

Veleba admits that the SPO repeatedly failed in the elections. "We must seriously consider what to do with the SPO now. We cannot pretend that we will go on, revise our programme and manage it somehow. Our mark got damaged, we saw our result in the last general election. I don't think we can cope with it alone," he said.

"But we have a lot of people who are ready to work and it would be a pity to lose the potential," Veleba added.

The SPO won only 0.4 percent of the vote in the general election last autumn. In 2013 it won 1.5 percent and in 2010 it was 4.3 percent, still under the 5-percent threshold to enter parliament. The CSSD won 22.1 percent in 2010 and 20.5 percent in 2013, but in 2017 it scored its worst result ever, 7.3 percent.

Hamacek can see no reason to ally with the SPO. He reminded of their bad election result, their former pact with far-right populist Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD) and controversial SPO top representatives, Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynar and Zeman's influential aide Martin Nejedly.

"We will of course let our local representatives decide whether they want to cooperate with somebody else, but we certainly are not going to cooperate with any party on the central level. And definitely not with the SPO," Hamacek told MfD.

Many in the CSSD consider the SPO Zeman's fan club rather than a political party, the paper writes.

According to official information, the main financial source of the SPO are the state contributions for its success in the 2016 regional elections in which it ran together with Okamura's SPD.

A part of the SPO is still angry about this cooperation.

"Okamura copied both our programme and name, he used us and then dumped us. He behaved as if Milos Zeman was the honorary chairman of the SPD rather than of the SPO. But one must admit that he is good and that he worked hard in the campaign. We alone would not have achieved such a good result with our present leadership," a SPO representative told MfD.

Veleba said he believes President Zeman may support the cooperation between the SPO and the CSSD.

Zeman will be the main guest of the forthcoming SPO congress at which the party leadeship is to offer its resignation due to the election failure.

The SPO-CSSD cooperation might be a plan for the survival of the SPO, formerly known as the Zemanists, and a confirmation of a great reconciliation between Zeman and the CSSD, MfD writes.

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