Republican youth wing neo-Nazis?

Things aren't going too well these days for the extreme-right Republican Party. In fact they've been going steadily downhill since the 1998 elections, when they lost all their seats in the lower house of parliament. Today they're strapped for cash and starved of publicity - reports in the media are few and far between, a far cry from the glory days when the Republicans and their comical leader Miroslav Sladek were constantly in the news. But, as Rob Cameron reports, things could get even worse...

To be honest, attempts to paint Sladek as a neo-Nazi firebrand always fell a bit short of the mark. True he had some particularly vicious things to say about the Czech Republic's Roma community, but to be frank I've heard similar things from many well-educated Czechs who consider themselves cultured, Western-leaning, progressive members of society. Sladek's major problem was his image - a dead-ringer for British comic character Mr Bean, he was never going to be the Czech Joerg Haider.

But according to reports in the media, the Czech Interior Ministry is still concerned about the Republicans and their far-right programme. So much so that they're commissioning a study to establish whether the Republicans are dangerous fascists. The ministry has published a list of suggested questions to be answered by the successful applicant - does the party's ideology share features with Nazi ideology? What part does the Republican youth wing play in far-right wing activities here in the Czech Republic?

Indeed it's the youth wing that the government is most worried about. A 1999 government report on extremism claims that the youth wing of the party is now fraternising with openly neo-Nazi groups. Leading Republican Youth member Tomas Kezba, says the Czech daily Lidove noviny, recently burst into a squat in Prague, threatening to send its anarchist inhabitants to the gas chambers and shouting 'Sieg Heil'. If the survey can prove allegations such as this one, then there seems to be no doubt where the Republicans - once the 'acceptable' face of the Czech far right - are heading.