Political analyst: Sobotka turnaround delivers Social Democrats to Zeman

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

Only a few days ago the head of the Social Democratic Party Bohuslav Sobotka was resolute that the caretaker government – more or less handpicked by the president – should not be given legitimacy. But pressure from within, whipped up by deputy leader Michal Hašek and the party's pro-Zeman faction, proved stronger. Mr Sobotka backed down, and in doing so may have radically changed his party’s course.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
I spoke earlier to political analyst Jiří Pehe.

“I think that unfortunately Bohuslav Sobotka came to the conclusion that he had lost the battle with the pro-Zeman wing in the Social Democratic Party. He realised he couldn’t win so he made a practical choice to buy him some time in which to remain party chairman and stay in the game. I think, however, that he lost his battle completely because he handed over the party to Miloš Zeman. I think that it will be only a matter of time before he is forced to give up his post as chairman.”

The pressure exerted by deputy leader Michal Hašek over the last few days for the party to support what is being called the president’s government was remarkable, almost unprecedented...

“There is a comparison that comes to mind. A lot of people forget nowadays how the Social Democratic Party allowed itself to be ‘devoured’ by the Communists in 1948 to a large extent due to its opportunistic behaviour. After 1948 it was very easy for the Communists to take over and take over what remained of the party. I don’t want to say that the situations are the same because obviously the circumstances are very different – that was a period of revolution – but the party has a long history of opportunistic tendencies.

“There are members today who chose to lean towards Mr Zeman for their own opportunistic reasons: they are young and have a long political future ahead of them and believe that ideas and questions such as party identity can wait. Unfortunately I think they has given up power over what goes on in this party to Miloš Zeman, his associates and his own party Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites In the future a merger or at least some kind of alliance between the two could, I think, be in the offing. This much is certain: the Social Democrats – through people like Michal Hašek - are now firmly under the control of Mr Zeman and his followers.”