Political pundit: Cleansing within Social Democratic Party was long overdue

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK

The Party of Civic Rights established in 2010 around the former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman is slowly gaining strength. According to opinion surveys it would now cross the 5 percent barrier needed to win seats in Parliament and it is doing its best to win over as many rival politicians and as much voter support from the Social Democrats as it can ahead of the autumn regional and senate elections. How serious a threat is this for the main opposition party and are we seeing a change of landscape on the political left? Political analyst Jiří Pehe explains:

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“What is happening is that after a long time some of the older people in the Social Democratic Party who were associated with Miloš Zeman, the former leader of the Social Democrats, are leaving the party and I personally see this as a welcome development. Due to their presence the Social Democratic Party has for a long time (and maybe unjustly) had the image of a post-communist party. These people, who still see Miloš Zeman as their leader, are former communists I think that their departure from the Social Democratic Party may actually help the party in the future. “

But the timing is not ideal. How seriously will this hurt the party ahead of the elections?

Senator Vladimír Dryml has left the Social Democratic Party in view of joining the Party of Civic Rights,  photo: CTK
“The Social Democratic Party is of course in danger of losing some of its voters temporarily but we should keep in mind that the party of Miloš Zeman – appropriately enough called Zemanovci – is a one-man project which heavily depends on Miloš Zeman. Now Miloš Zeman may be around for ten years, but he may also only be around only for a short period of time, and then I think the party will disappear as quickly as it appeared because it depends on one person. So yes, in the immediate future I am sure that the departures (of party members) from the ranks of the Social Democrats and the strengthening of Mr. Zeman’s party may damage the Social Democrats but overall I see this as a positive development simply because the changes within the ranks of the Social Democratic Party – the departure of people who in my opinion are not true Social Democrats and belong to the old populist left – that process has been long overdue.”

The Social Democratic Party has long been handicapped by the fact that it has no partner on the left. The communists are not a potential ally –and neither would it seem are the Zemanovci. How do you see that developing?

“Actually this is one point on which I do not totally agree with my colleagues. I do not see any reason why the Social Democrats and Mr. Zeman’s party could not cooperate and form a coalition after the elections. Certainly it would be more natural for these two groupings to work together than for the Social Democrats and the Communists to do so. So maybe this would make things more organized in some ways, because we would have two democratic parties on the left – the traditional Social Democratic Party, cleansed of people who are not true Social Democrats or modern Social Democrats, and then we would have this populist left party which is still an acceptable coalition partner because it is not a communist party.”