Social Democrats try to get back on track

Zdeněk Škromach, Michal Hašek, Jeroným Tejc, photo: CTK

The Social Democratic Party has tried to get back on track, a week after the party’s poorer-than-expected result in the election opened a major rift. On Thursday, a number of senior party members, who had led a call for leader Bohuslav Sobotka to resign, apologised for denying – or in one case lying – about a secret meeting with the country’s president, and one stepped down. The question is now what’s next for the troubled party.

Zdeněk Škromach,  Michal Hašek,  Jeroným Tejc,  photo: CTK
Arguably, the most closely-watched apology on Thursday was that of deputy party leader Michal Hašek, who had said that no meeting with the president had taken place, saying it was wrong to lie in both life and politics. A smiling deputy leader Zdeněk Škromach also offered his apologies (maintaining he regretted if anyone had been misled) but only one attendee of the secret meeting, Social Democrat deputy leader Jiří Zimola, resigned.

He made clear he was stepping down in the hopes of improving his party’s chances in upcoming negotiations on forming a government (although he stays on as a regional chairman). Oneresignation, at this point, may not be enough. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka, said explicitly on the day that all those who had taken part in the secret meeting, should go.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Fellow Social Democrat, Lubomír Zaorálek, suggested in a Czech TV interview on Thursday evening that their departure would only help.

“That would certainly be the simplest way to resolve the current situation, to be able to move ahead. It simply is not possible to leave people who have lied in leading positions.”

Mr Zaorálek also pointed to the fact, there were still many unknowns regarding last weekend’s secret meeting. The five who met with Mr Zeman, labelled ‘putschists’ by the pro-Sobotka camp, have said that party leader was never discussed, although that has convinced few even within their own ranks, including the speaker of the Senate, Milan Štěch. Lubomír Zaorálek suggested it was a shame that the president himself, a party to the meeting, had not made a statement.

“I think it would be important if the president himself said something about the meeting. Keeping it secret at this point no longer makes sense. The fact that five senior leaders of a political party met with him in secret right after the election, that’s not just a problem of the party. As it is, we are hunting in the dark.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
With or without additional admissions or revelations, remaining party deputy leaders like Michal Hašek, could still be forced out when the party’s executive committee meets on November 10. They could also still go of their own accord: Mr Hašek said that he would weigh the possibilities. As it stands, party leader Bohuslav Sobotka appears to now have fully consolidated his position; more, including who will join him on a new negotiating team to try and agree on a new government, should known in about ten day’s time.