Communists prepare to decide the government's future

Miroslav Grebenicek

With the Czech government crisis coming to a head, all eyes are now on the Communist Party. Since 1989 something of an "outsider" in Czech politics, the Communists are now basking in the limelight. They may be the kingmakers, the party which is expected to tip the scales in Friday's no-confidence vote in the Gross government.

If they give it the thumbs down it will be the second time since the Velvet Revolution that the Communists have joined forces with the right wing Civic Democrats to push through a crucial decision. The first instance was when they helped to make Vaclav Klaus, the former leader of the Civic Democrats, President of the Czech Republic. We asked Prof. Vladimira Dvorakova what would motivate them to vote against a left of centre government today:

"The Communists and Social Democrats are rivals for left oriented voters and the Communists probably think that the worse the position of the Social Democrats, the stronger their own."

But would their voters not be against the idea of the Communists giving the right wing Civic Democrats the green light a year ahead of regular elections?

"Yes, that is an important factor. That is why there are now heated debates within the Communist party over what to do. The party leader Miroslav Grebenicek strongly supports a vote of no-confidence while his critics are against it because it would really enable the opposition Civic Democratic Party to launch a programme which is unacceptable to left wing voters and which would have a strong social impact. So this decision is a big one and could really have a big impact on the Communist party and its supporters."

Would it not be more advantageous for them to make some kind of behind the scenes deal with the Social Democrats - on certain laws that would be approved and so on, in the course of the next year?

Persident Vaclav Klaus and Prime minister Stanislav Gross,  photo: CTK
"I think that the party leader, Grebenicek, is trying to get the party accepted by the broad political spectrum. This was the reason why they supported Vaclav Klaus for president in the first place - because they expected him to accept them as a relevant political party. So I think that if the Social Democrats were to openly ask Grebenicek for support he might think about it. But he wants that request brought out into the open. It is a form of blackmail really because Grebenicek knows very well that the Social Democrats are under pressure both from inside the party and from the outside and that they cannot openly accept support from the Communists."

Do you really think that the communists could become the strongest party on the left - and what would happen if they were?

"I think that possibility is certainly there. The Social Democratic Party is in a deep crisis, a crisis that is not just connected to the Prime Minister in person but one that goes much deeper. And I think that this is the strategy of the Civic Democrats - they know that there are limits to public support for the Communists. The Communists would never be able to gain a majority and they have a problem finding coalition partners. So if the Communists were the strongest party on the left it would enable right wing parties to govern in a long term perspective."