Analysis: blame for Social Democrats’ election result should not be laid solely at Sobotka’s door

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

The Social Democrats showed remarkable disunity at the weekend when – ahead of the coalition talks – 20 within the party called on leader Bohuslav Sobotka to resign. Some expressed shock, others support for the embattled chairman, but this much is clear: the party’s largely Pyrrhic victory deepened an already existing split in the party.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
I discussed the situation with journalist and political analyst Jindřich Šídlo.

“The election results are the weakest for the Social Democrats since 1992. They even lost voters since the last election 2010. So there are many in the party who must be very disappointed and who want the chairman to accept responsibility. Mr Sobotka is not the sole person responsible, of course. Yes, he was the leader who wanted to be prime minister, but he is not the only one behind the party’s poor result.”

There has been a very public split between the chairman’s wing and that of his deputy Michal Hašek who has close ties to the president. Because Mr Hašek and other prominent Social Democrats allegedly met in secret with the president at the weekend, is it in fact the president who is pulling the strings now? Are the Social Democrats in their current predicament largely also because of him?

“Yes, I think so. It’s no secret that the president does not like Mr Sobotka and the reasons go back more than 10 years when, in 2003 he and others did not support Mr Zeman’s first presidential bid. He is on the list of 27 betrayers and for sure this is a kind of revenge on the part of the president...”

Should the president be getting involved in the internal problems of any one party at all?

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“Well it’s a very unusual situation: although he hasn’t been a member of the party for more than six years Mr Zeman still enjoys a great deal of popularity inside and gets credit among voters. He still has a strong influence and I think that he almost can’t help himself. President Zeman also actively decided he was going to act this way and in fact signalled to politicians and others long before the election was held that he would not name Mr Sobotka prime minister.”

What kind of situation are the Social Democrats even before meeting with ANO 2011 and the Christian Democrats? Are they not in a very weak position even before coalition talks begin?

“Sure, I’d say so. In the end, as a result, I think ANO’s Andrej Babiš may play the role of kingmaker and largely determine who will be the next prime minister. It may not be either Mr Sobotka or Mr Hašek in the end but someone else entirely who gets the post, someone from outside the Social Democrats.”