Is former PM Zeman making a political comeback?

Miloš Zeman

Miloš Zeman, one of the biggest names in Czech politics in the last two decades, could be making a comeback. A civic association called the ‘Friends of Miloš Zeman’ has registered at the Interior Ministry and is planning its first meeting. On Monday, the former prime minister is set to address around 500 of his supporters in Prague, where the group will announce its manifesto. So does this mean that the former Social Democrats leader is actually planning a return to politics? I talked to analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková to find out. Firstly, I asked about the difference between founding a civic association and a political party outright:

Miloš Zeman
“Nowadays, it is easier for them to form a civic association, and also it could - at least I think they suppose that it could - appeal to members of the public who were originally connected with the revolution. At this time the Civic Forum, a civic association, was founded here in Prague which got the Velvet Revolution started. So I think that maybe they suppose this connection could appeal to the public.”

So you do think that Miloš Zeman has some political aspirations with this association, then?

“You know, it is really difficult to say about Miloš Zeman. I think that from the moment he left politics he was still always somehow involved - albeit as a person outside of any movements or direct processes, but he had a very strong influence through his supporters and through some lobbies nevertheless. You know, about his political aspirations, in 2003 he said that he didn’t want to be a candidate for president, and then he ran for president and lost. So, I don’t believe him when he says that he doesn’t want to return to politics.”

Do you see this as a revolt against the current leadership of the CSSD, and should leader Jiří Paroubek be scared of this development?

Jiří Paroubek
“You know, it is difficult to answer directly. In fact, I think that Zeman is a man of the past. I don’t think he can bring something new to Czech politics. He is connected with development in the 1990s and so on. On the other hand, he is still influential in the Social Democratic Party. He has charisma, which means he can still influence some of the members of the Social Democratic party. And there are supposed to be the direct elections of the president of the party in autumn this year. And this could cause some problems for Jiří Paroubek. Mr Paroubek probably supposes that he will be directly elected by the public, which would give him legitimacy and strengthen his position. But, if Miloš Zeman is successful in this public appeal against Mr Paroubek, it could happen that Paroubek fails to be reelected as party leader, or is reelected party leader with a very small majority, which would greatly weaken his position.”