With their wishes ignored, why would Communists support ANO-led coalition?

Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip, photo: Filip Jandourek

A minority coalition of Andrej Babiš’s ANO and the Social Democrats, backed by the Communists on key votes, appears likely. However, ANO have just rejected a Communist bill allowing referendums on leaving the EU and NATO and also disregarded their wishes on expelling Russian diplomats and extraditing a Russian alleged hacker. So why are the Communists evidently ready to play ball with ANO? That’s a question I put to political scientist Jiří Pehe.

Former Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“I think that the Communists are basically caught in Babiš’s trap.

“They decided early on to support the second government of Mr. Babiš and sort of legitimised him, in return for the promise of getting important positions on the boards of state companies and maybe some other perks.

“Now of course they are in real danger of losing all of these possible advantages.

“And also losing even more voters, because if they do not support Babiš, the chance of early elections will be ever greater.

“The Communist Party, next to the Social Democratic Party, is the party that lost most of its voters to Mr. Babiš between 2013 and 2017.

“So I think that the Communist Party is in a very difficult position.”

Is another motivation perhaps that the Communists wish to be, in a sense, legitimised? They’ve never been involved in any government and now they would be.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
“Yes, I think that Babiš gives them a degree of legitimacy. The question is whether this doesn’t come too late for the Communist Party.

“Because of course if that had happened at the time that the Communist Party was the third strongest party in the Czech Republic, a few years back, that would still have given them the chance to use that kind of legitimisation to sort of score more with their voters.

“But now what we see is a party that has been really decimated in the last elections.

“I personally think that even the top leaders of the Communist Party have lost hope that the party will ever come back as a viable political force.”

People spoke in the 1990s about it only being a matter of time before the Communist vote faded. Are we now finally seeing that development?

“Yes. And I think that it’s really a great historical paradox that the so-called traditional parties, which like to call themselves democratic parties, have unsuccessfully tried to defeat the Communists, or force them out of the political mainstream, by playing a strong anti-Communist card, by extolling the virtues of liberal democracy and so on.

“None of that worked with Communist voters and in fact in some elections the party was even stronger than previously.

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Luboš Vedral
“The great paradox is that now it may be Mr. Babiš, who these same parties also blame for being undemocratic or authoritarian, who ends the parliamentary existence of the Communist Party.

“Because for Communist voters he obviously represents what the democratic parties could not offer.

“That is: strong arm rule, very generous benefits for older voters and also a degree of relativisation of the past, which Communist voters like to hear. Because he is not trying to berate them for their Communist pasts.”