Paroubek under fire from Skromach, Zeman over election results

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK

The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has come under fire from within his own party, after an unimpressive showing in the Senate and local elections. There were also rumblings of disapproval from the Social Democrats' influential former chairman Milos Zeman, which in the past has signalled the writing on the wall for previous Social Democrat leaders.

Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
A year ago Jiri Paroubek was seen by the Social Democrats as a saviour, the man who pulled the party out of the doldrums after months of crisis. Mr Paroubek, who served as prime minister until June 2006, was credited with stabilising the then governing Social Democrats, weakened by highly publicised scandals and the successive resignations of previous leaders Stanislav Gross and Vladimir Spidla. His aggressive, uncompromising style and rousing speeches gave the party a new energy, and the Social Democrats went into the June elections with a feeling of unity and high hopes. They didn't win, but scored their best ever election result.

Now, things are rather different. The party is once again languishing in the opinion polls. The recent Senate and local elections were not a disaster but nothing to celebrate either. Jiri Paroubek's handling of those elections has now been criticised by deputy leader Zdenek Skromach.

Zdenek Skromach and Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK,  photo: CTK
"Jiri Paroubek pulled the party out of the basement", Mr Skromach said in a newspaper interview. "But we need to say where we're going next," He called for the party to find new people to allow the Social Democrats to beat the Civic Democrats.

There was also criticism from former leader Milos Zeman, now in retirement in his cottage in the country. In interviews with several national newspapers on Tuesday, he said there was no room in politics for "hysteria", and called for early elections to resolve the ongoing stalemate. That's something Mr Paroubek bitterly opposes, because if the polls are to be believed they would be a disaster for both the Social Democrats and by extension, him personally.

Jiri Paroubek is still fully in control of his party, and a few isolated rebellions do not signify a full-scale revolt. But he will need to reassert his authority fast if he is to avoid following in the footsteps of Vladimir Spidla and Stanislav Gross.