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Czech Social Democrats clean house over local agreement with ultra-right

Prague, 7.11.2014 22:21, (ROMEA)
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (PHOTO: ČSSD)
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (PHOTO: ČSSD)

Members of the national leadership of the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) told the Czech News Agency they have called on the party's executive committee in Ústí Region to close the local ČSSD organization in the town of Duchcov (Teplice district). Local representatives of ČSSD there have formed a coalition government with the right-wing extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) as a result of the local elections.

Yesterday the national leadership of ČSSD distanced itself from the local coalition, which also includes the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM). Today the national executive of the ČSSD asked the regional executive to propose excluding its two representatives in Duchcov from the party at the upcoming regional conference.

"There were options for other coalitions there that our colleagues did not take advantage of. We disagree with their being in coalition with a party we consider extremist, a party the ČSSD should not collaborate with," Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, a member of the ČSSD executive, told the Czech News Agency.  

Chovanec said he presumed the regional leadership would decide to close the party cell "in rapid time". Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna, the vice-chair of the ČSSD's regional organization, agrees that the Duchcov members concerned should be expelled from the party.  

As for the entire local cell, however, Foldyna believes it shouldn't be closed just yet. "For the time being we have no information as to whether the local ČSSD body has officially approved the coalition with the DSSS. If it hasn't yet done so, then it shouldn't be closed. However, if the local organization has officially approved it, I am for the closure," he told the Czech News Agency, adding that collaboration with an extremist party is unacceptable and that he wants to prevent the formation of similar coalitions in the future.  

"The ČSSD regional executive committee should adopt a resolution banning collaboration with the DSSS," Foldyna said. However, prior to the recent elections, news server reported that ČSSD members active at regional level were making some very strange statements indeed.

For example, Alena Rašková, who has just won re-election as deputy mayor, claimed that "The Roma have children as a business." Speaking during the runup to the local elections, she said: ""This has really burned every decent person for years now. The Roma are literally turning the welfare benefits paid by the state into an advantageous business. Every child in that minority population knows exactly what he is entitled to. Do they go to school? On the contrary! Do they find work as adults? What are you talking about? Why would they, when an eight-member family from Prostějov collects welfare that totals more than CZK 40 000 per month?"

Social Democrat Martin Klika, a regional councilor responsible for social policy in northern Bohemia, is not far behind Rašková in this regard, as he has been hoping the DSSS would make it onto the Duchov council. Evidence of this is his online communication with DSSS member Jindřich Svoboda beneath a publicly shared photograph promoting the DSSS on the Facebook social networking site.

In status updates posted in July, Social Democrat Klika converses with Svoboda about the autumn local elections and then writes:  "The main thing is to build up your strength, I believe the battle for the town hall will begin in August already... My fingers are crossed that you get onto the council."

Communists to discuss local coalition with the DSSS as well

The KSČM leadership will also discuss the Duchcov coalition today. "We certainly do not want the KSČM brand to be used as cover for extremist politics. We reject this coalition, but we want to address the issue on the basis of information from the scene," KSČM Vice-Chair Jiří Dolejš told journalists.  

Dolejš would not comment on whether the communists might also recommend closing the local party cell or expelling some of its members. "The KSČM traditionally gives room to unaffiliated candidates on its lists, and in many cases that practice has proven itself. That makes it even more regrettable that in Duchcov, the unaffiliated representatives who ran on the KSČM list have not respected the recommendations made by the district organization of the KSČM and have abused both the brand of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and our trust," Petr Šimůnek, First Vice-Chair of the communists, told news server    

Both ČSSD and KSČM are to hold three seats on the seven-member local executive. The seventh seat is to go to the DSSS.

While ČSSD holds a total of five seats on the larger local council, only two of those people are party members. The DSSS seat on the executive is to be held by the ultra-right party's lead candidate, Jindřich Svoboda, who has convened anti-Romani demonstrations in Duchcov.      

Last year, an anti-Romani mood and protests flared up in Duchcov after several Romani people assaulted a non-Romani married couple on the street. This past March the court handed down sentences against the five people involved ranging from a one-year suspended sentence to three years in prison.    

The verdict did not find that attack to have been racially motivated. The DSSS then convened a protest in Duchcov in June 2013 that ended in clashes with the police.

Svoboda has been convicted of insurance fraud. He filed fraudulent claims for reimbursement for hundreds of thousands of crowns worth of travel to Prague for medical treatment, trips that never actually occurred.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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