Green Party expels four rebels in secret vote

Photo: CTK

Infighting within the Czech Green Party reached a head over the weekend when four rebels were expelled by the party’s national council. The move is seen as a victory of the party’s pragmatic core over a radical fraction which accused the party leadership of having betrayed voters for political gains. However some commentators say the confrontation came too late and predict that the smallest party in government will find it hard to recover.

Dana Kuchtová, Věra Jakubková, Martin Čáslavka and Olga Zubová (left to right) were expelled from the party, photo: CTK
Emotions ran high at a meeting of the Green Party’s national council on Sunday. Its aim was to resolve the drawn-out policy dispute once and for all and as party leader Martin Bursík announced the expulsion of the four rebels he was pelted with insults and even rotten eggs.

“This has not been an easy decision for us and we did our best to avoid it for as long as possible. But we are now ready to move on. We have a sound policy programme and are ready to work hard to win back public support in time for the upcoming elections.”

Upbeat as Mr. Bursík sounded, there is no doubt that this will be an uphill struggle. Opinion surveys indicate that since the 2006 parliamentary elections the Greens have lost more than half of their supporters. The four expelled rebels claim that this is because today the party is neither Green nor democratic. In opposition to its leadership they recently set up a fraction named Democratic Appeal and there was even talk of setting up an alternative Green party that would be more left-leaning and more emphatic in defense of Green issues. Whether this will now happen is an open question. However political commentator Petr Just says this would be counterproductive and that the Czech Greens are only following in the steps of Green parties elsewhere in Europe who moved from fundamentalist to pragmatic in order to succeed in high politics.

Ondřej Liška with Martin Bursík (right), photo: CTK
“Before 2005 – i.e. before Martin Bursík became chairman - the party was run by radical ecologists and it was seen by the people not as a standard political party but more as a pressure group or interest group that does not belong in Parliament or in the parliamentary elections. Martin Bursík gave the Greens a parliamentary slant and it helped them – it obviously helped them – so I think if this radical group wants to find a more radical Green party I think it would be a return to the period before 2005 and I am not sure they would succeed in addressing voters as a party that belongs in Parliament.”

Practically all parties in the Czech Parliament face a similar problem –with factions pulling further to the left or to the right. However in the case of the Greens this has been further aggravated by the fact that for historical reasons the Greens are part of a centre-right coalition. Whatever its consequences, the decision made by the Green Party’s national council is still reverberating across the political scene. The expulsion of the party rebels has once again changed the balance of forces in the lower house, putting more pressure on the governing coalition, and the merciless purge of party members who openly criticized their leadership has re-opened an old debate on democracy in politics and party discipline.