Social Democrat leadership up in arms over local government coalition with ultra-right party

Anti-Romany demonstration in Duchcov in 2013, photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová

A rift has developed within the Social Democratic Party over the decision of the local party organization in the north Bohemian town of Duchcov to enter into a coalition with the ultra-right Workers Party of Social Justice whose members have in the past organized anti-Romany demonstrations in the town. The party’s national leadership has distanced itself from the coalition and called for the local party organization to be scrapped, but the party’s regional leadership has surprisingly refused to comply, arguing that the coalition is perfectly legitimate.

Anti-Romany demonstration in Duchcov in 2013,  photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová
Duchcov, a town of 9,000 inhabitants in north Bohemia, has frequently made headlines in the past year due to growing anti-Romany sentiment among the locals. The problems flared up in the wake of an attack against a white couple by five members of the Romany minority. Although a court later ruled that the attack was not racially motivated the floodgates of anti-Romany sentiment were wide open and the ultra-right Workers Social Justice Party exploited the public mood to the full, organizing a number of anti-Romany protests in the town that ended in violent clashes with the police.

The Workers Party of Social Justice, successor to the Workers Party which was dissolved by the Czech Supreme Administrative Court in February of 2010 on the grounds that it incited racial hatred, came fourth in October’s local elections and accepted an offer from the local Social Democratic Party organization to enter into a three-way coalition made up of the Social Democrats, the Workers Social Justice Party and the Communists.

The news evoked outrage at the party’s national leadership with party leader, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka saying that under no condition would any Social Democrat enter into a coalition with an ultra-right party –in Duchcov or any other Czech town or village. He called a meeting of the party’s national leadership which unanimously backed his demand for the Duchcov local party organization to be scrapped and its members expelled from Social Democrat ranks for violating the party’s statutes and undermining its basic values.

However, Monday’s meeting of the party’s regional leadership in Usti brought an unexpected development. The regional organization defied the wishes of the party leadership saying it had studied the coalition agreement signed in Duchcov and found nothing that would be in violation of the party’s statutes. It moreover pointed out that the Workers Social Justice Party was a legitimate political entity that had received support from the locals.

Jaroslav Foldyna,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
Jaroslav Foldyna of the Usti leadership told Czech Television:

“We found nothing which would justify their expulsion, nothing on the grounds of which we could say - get out of the party because you are tarnishing our image; what you are supporting here is racist and xenophobic – we found no such thing”.

The new town council in Duchcov has seven members – three Social Democrats, three Communists and one councilor for the Workers Social Justice Party. The latter –Jindřich Svoboda is a well-known figure in the town having organized a series of anti-Romany protests. Although today he claims to have nothing against the Romany minority, a statement posted on his Facebook page in 2013 suggests otherwise - he welcomes growing ethnic unrest and refers to the Roma as black swine who should all be killed. Moreover as a former organizer of violent anti-Romany protests Svoboda has now been put in charge of security in the town.

Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka reacted to the latest developments from Israel saying he was not going to let the matter rest and would re-open a debate on the issue upon his return.