Czech voters get shocking advice: vote for the Communists

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTK

Fifteen years after the fall of communism, the Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has shocked many Czechs by telling them to vote for Communist candidates in the second round of elections to the upper house of the Czech parliament, the Senate, this weekend. Following a poor showing by the Social Democrats, in many constituencies right-of-centre Civic Democratic candidates will be facing off against communists in the second round. Mr. Gross said his party's aim was to prevent the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats winning an overwhelming majority in the Senate, but for many Czechs he crossed into forbidden territory.

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross,  photo: CTK
"Any candidate is better than a Civic Democrat - even a Communist" such is the advice that Social Democrat leaders gave their supporters, following their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Civic Democrats in the first round of Senate elections last weekend. In a desperate attempt to prevent a right-wing dominated Senate the Social Democrat leader publicly voiced something that the opposition had long accused him of - cooperation with the communists.

This desperado policy has shocked not only voters but the party's coalition partners, complicating coalition talks at regional government level. Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek described it as "outrageous, shameful and unworthy of a democratic party". Political analysts say that the Social Democrats are at a decisive cross-road. An alliance with the communists - who came second in the elections - is tempting, but analysts point out that close cooperation between the 20 thousand strong, internally divided Social Democrats and the 100 thousand strong, largely unreformed communist party can only end one way - with a dominant communist force left of centre. No amount of money or effort could have given the right wing Civic Democrats a bigger boost on the eve of the second round of elections.