Czech communists re-elect Vojtěch Filip as party chair
Amidst growing public support, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia elected a new leadership at a party congress in Liberec at the weekend. The re-election of the pragmatic incumbent chair, Vojtěch Filip, reflects the dilemma the party faces: modernization could rob it of support by communist hardliners while a more radical approach would make it unappealing to the growing numbers of voters disillusioned with the centre-right Czech government.
The results of the vote reflect the party’s unwillingness to modernize in order to attract a wider spectrum of voters besides the regular 10-14 percent of protest votes the party usually receives at the polls. But it also shows how difficult it is to keep the party hardliners at bay. Kateřina Konečná is a 31-year old communist MP from northern Moravia.
“People know that Vojtěch Filip is not someone who glorifies the past and sees only positive things about the communist regime. The delegates at the congress considered all possibilities and decided to support Mr Filip. But I think that the important thing is that they rejected attempts to return the party to the past.”
In a series of recent polls, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia ranked second strongest in the country with around 17 percent voter support, behind the opposition Social Democrats but ahead of the centre-right Civic Democrats. That might open the way to government for the long-ostracized party. But the communists would have to make a clean break with the past and lose the stigma of the totalitarian party that ruled the country with the help of Soviet tanks.
Commentator Jan Čulík says that in recent elections, frustrated Czechs voters again and again supported new parties which would deal with some of the pressing issues of the day, such as corruption. But the Communists have so far been unable to tap that voter potential.
The Social Democrats have until now shunned the Communists although the two parties did form some regional governments together. The Communist Party now looks to the autumn regional elections with hope a good showing at the polls might make them a more attractive match, and eventually pave the way for them to enter government.