Could Communists replicate first participation in regional governments at national level?

Two weeks after regional elections which saw a landslide victory for the opposition Social Democrats, governments in all of the Czech Republic’s 13 regions are now being formed by the wining party. In six of them, the governments are most likely to rely on the support of the Communist Party. They will either enter straightforward coalitions with the Social Democrats, or support Social Democrat minority governments. This represents a significant advance for the Communists in the post-1989 period.

Friday saw another pact sealed between the Social Democrats and the Communists, with the Communists pledging to support a Social Democrat government in Central Bohemia. Similar deals have been or are about to be struck in six of the country’s 13 regions; in the remaining seven, the governments will be composed of two or more other parties, with the Communists remaining in opposition.

However, not all Social Democrats are keen on joining forces with their rivals for the left-wing vote. Political analyst Petr Just explains.

“We have to take into account that the Czech Social Democratic party is not a post-communist political party, as other such parties in central and eastern Europe, and there are therefore many within this party who believe that the unreformed communist party is unacceptable as a possible coalition partner. That’s the reason why I think that there are still some regions where Social Democrat leaders and negotiators are still trying to find other alternatives than going for the communists.”

In two regions – Karlovy Vary and Moravia-Silesia – the Communists will not only support the minority governments set up by Social Democrats but will actually have seats on them. This could be the first step on a road that will bring the unreformed Communist Party, which has never fully rejected its totalitarian past, into government at national level. The head of the Communist deputies group, Pavel Kováčik, told Czech TV he believed taking part in regional governments will help its members achieve acceptance among voters.

“The moment that happens, voters will naturally send us into government in a normal way. Our coalition potential after the general election of 2010 will of course depend on the number of seats the Communist Party gains. And if that makes a majority – together with the Social Democrats – I don’t think the Social Democrats will commit the same grave error they made last time when they wasted a mandate of 111 left-wing votes.”

Jiří Paroubek,  photo: CTK
In what is known as the Bohumín Resolution, the Social Democrats promised in 1995 they would not co-operate with the Communists. But Petr Just believes that if these regional partnerships work well, and don’t turn off voters, such co-operation may well be replicated at national level.

“With Jiří Paroubek being the Social Democrat chair, we have already seen several steps of the party towards cooperation with the communists. Although there is still the Bohumín Resolution we might expect that the voices calling for a revision of the resolution will grow stronger and stronger.”