Court hears government’s case to ban far-right Workers’ Party

Tomáš Vandas, photo: CTK

On the agenda of the Supreme Administrative Court on Monday is a much-discussed case that has been long in the making: a governmental proposal to dissolve the far-right Workers’ Party. Different governments have asserted that the party is a political wing of the neo-Nazi movement, however a previous attempt to ban the party outright in early 2009 was dismissed for lack of evidence. This time around the Ministry of the Interior is sparing no punches.

The proposal to ban the Workers’ Party comes on the heels of a string of crackdowns on extremist activity throughout 2009. The government has stated its intention to take a tough line against extremism and it clearly has no intention of allowing its proposal to be thrown out on the grounds of lack of evidence. Where the first proposal brought by the previous government was four pages long, the current one comprises more than a hundred pages with 91 appendixes of evidence aiming to prove the party’s collusion with right-wing extremist groups. For all that though, Interior Minister Martin Pecina says dissolving the Workers’ Party is not the main issue:

Supporters of the Workers’ Party,  photo: CTK
“The neo-Nazis have been hit so hard recently that at present their movement has been weakened enough as it is. I don’t think that this case entails anything dramatic, but I think we should send a clear signal that this kind of movement has no place in our system. But if it doesn’t work out I don’t see it as a tragedy.”

The government asserts that the Workers’ Party knowingly exhorts social tension by systematically vilifying minorities to create an atmosphere of negativity, fear and hatred. Their members are accused of taking direct and indirect part in various associations relating to National Socialism and hard-line nationalism, organising concerts of groups with known fascist ideologies, and targeting primarily Roma, immigrants and homosexuals.

The prohibition of a party however is a very serious step, a major encroachment into constitutional rights, and the government must do more than prove that the ideology of the Workers’ Party is contemptible; it must also pose a threat to democracy in the Czech Republic. On his way to court, Workers’ Party Chairman Tomáš Vandas told me that democracy and equality is exactly what his party is about:

Tomáš Vandas,  photo: CTK
“Under no circumstances have we ever presented ourselves as wanting to suppress any minority, promoted neo-Nazism or done anything of the sort. We have always emphasised that we are only interested in one thing – that the laws of this country apply to everyone equally, regardless of skin-colour. That is our priority, and that is what our platform is about; I don’t think there is anything racist or discriminatory about it. This court case is merely a political process intended to liquidate an opposition political party that has been gaining in popularity and has more and more support among citizens.”

Indeed, while the Workers’ Party is by all means a fringe association (the government’s figures attest to 670 members) its showing in elections to the European Parliament was adequate, with more than one percent of votes winning the party funding from the very state that wants to ban them. A clear intention in bringing the case to court now is to have done with the party ahead of Parliamentary elections in late May. Minister Pecina again:

“The court received all of the material sufficiently ahead of time. If there are any new facts brought forward by the Workers’ Party then of course we could expect a postponement, but I don’t think that will happen; I think all the evidence is on the table and that the Supreme Administrative Court will decide on Thursday.”

If the government wins its case, the Workers’ Party would be the first political party ever disbanded on the grounds of having violated democratic values in the Czech Republic.