PM Jiri Paroubek: Communists no threat to democracy

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
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Views expressed by politicians and participants of the gatherings in the streets of Prague on Thursday do not necessarily reflect the overall mood in Czech society. The Communist Party is the third strongest party in the Czech Republic, a cause for alarm for some. For his part, the Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has said the Communists are not a threat at all.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
Eight months before national elections, a survey by the STEM polling agency has suggested that if elections were held today Prime Minister Paroubek's Social Democrats and the Communists would gain a majority of votes in the lower house. If voter preferences don't change dramatically in the coming months, a minority Social Democrat government with the tacit support of the Communists looks like a realistic scenario.

On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the fall of communism, Jiri Paroubek took back a statement made years ago that the Communist Party should be banned, calling it his stupidest ever statement. He also posed the rhetorical question of whether the Communist Party represented a threat to democracy. Mr Paroubek's answer is that it does not. In his view it is in the best interest of the Czech Republic to integrate the Communists and give their voters a chance to participate in the prosperity of the country. That said, Mr Paroubek has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of a Social Democrat and Communist coalition government.

Photo: CTK
When he laid flowers at the memorial to the 1989 student demonstration on Thursday, the prime minister was booed by some participants at the event. Nevertheless he continues to top the polls in public support. Since he became prime minister earlier this year, his Social Democrats have been gaining on the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. According to the STEM polling agency the Civic Democrats would get just over 30 percent if elections were held today - only 5 percent more than the Social Democrats. The Communist Party would get over 13 percent.

For many opponents of the former regime it is unacceptable that the Communists are still around but with a stable voter support they remain a force to be reckoned with.