Social Democrat rebels “lay down arms”

Michal Hašek, Jeroným Tejc, photo: CTK

A recent attempt by several top Social Democrats to oust party leader Bohuslav Sobotka has come full circle: on Friday it was they and not the chairman who stepped down. Michal Hašek and Jeroným Tejc followed senior party member Zdeněk Škromach in resigning from their posts, pledging to support their party and show renewed unity.

Michal Hašek,  Jeroným Tejc,  photo: CTK
It was a foregone conclusion that the so-called rebels who recently failed to drive out Bohuslav Sobotka, would have to step down – the only question was when. On Friday morning, there was no longer doubt. Deputy leader Michal Hašek (until recently the No. 2 man in the party) and Jeroným Tejc, the head of the party’s deputies club – announced in a televised briefing they were stepping down in order to end a split which had damaged their party’s credibility. They didn’t, however, go without a few pointed remarks, suggesting that from now on Mr Sobotka would be solely responsible for any failures the party suffered.

Former deputy leader Michal Hašek:

Zdeněk Škromach,  photo: CTK
“The worst that could happen now to the Social Democratic Party would be if the rift in the party continued. The Czech Republic and its citizens deserve to have a stable government which will address their problems as soon as possible... We want to give Bohuslav Sobotka the chance to negotiate such a government. The responsibility for negotiating a new government and its functioning will primarily be his.”

Jeroným Tejc, the former head of the parties’ deputies club, echoed his colleague’s words, adding this:

“Remaining loyal to my party is more important than any post, even leading the deputies’ club. At the same time, I hope that Bohuslav Sobotka will be as tough in negotiations in the lower house – and in defending the party programme – as he was towards critics in his own party.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Of the so-called rebels, Mr Hašek was the first to call on Mr Sobotka to step down a mere day after the party narrowly won the recent general elections. But Mr Sobotka, usually mild-mannered, surprised everyone by weathering the storm. That left his opponents tying themselves in knots as they struggled to explain why they had secretly met with the president a day before they called for his head. Friday’s resignations have bought Mr Sobotka time and more leverage as the Social Democrats prepare to negotiate with ANO 2011 and the Christian Democrats. For now, he will have to take those who stepped down at their word that they will toe the line so he can focus on the tasks ahead.