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Czech Socialist Vice-Chair first defends xenophobic slogan, then calls for it to go

Prague/Most, 14.9.2010 15:45, (ROMEA)

Bohuslav Sobotka, the Vice-Chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) has been waffling in his response to the campaign being run by the local ČSSD organization in Most. Even though he has now asked Karel Novotný, leader of the Most branch of ČSSD, to stop using the slogan “Why should I regret being the majority nationality in my homeland? One state, one set of rules”, he previously defended the slogan in an interview for Czech daily MF Dnes.

"Even though the slogan being used is not aggressively targeting anyone or attacking anyone explicitly, it has become the subject of a controversial interpretation during the first days of the campaign and is leading to polarizing, simplified conclusions,” Sobotka’s official statement today reads. “ČSSD’s politics are not and will never be based on dividing society along the lines of nationality or social standing. ČSSD has always defended and does defend the Social Democratic values of equal rights and equal opportunities, as well as a policy of integrating socially excluded groups of citizens. The party prefers this approach to simplified solutions based on dangerous populism, repression, and societal division. This is why I have asked the ČSSD leader in Most, Karel Novotný, to withdraw that slogan from the campaign.”

However, in an interview with MF Dnes on the day prior to this statement, Sobotka said the following: “It’s a rather complex slogan. It can be interpreted in various ways and I do not see it as something that should dramatically displease anyone. I believe it is the same kind of slogan as those on the billboards of the other standard political parties.”

ČSSD regional chair Petr Benda has said he does not interfere with local campaigns and that they must have had a reason to use such a slogan. Czech MP Josef Tancoš (ČSSD) of the Ústí region, who is also the Vice-Chair of the party cell in Most, does not believe the slogan is discriminatory or offensive.

"I want people to think more about that topic and not shut their eyes to it,” Tancoš says, pointing out that the ČSSD central election committee had monitored what kinds of problems were bothering people and produced an analysis of them. “That’s why we responded with that motto.”

Karel Novotný has responded to Sobotka’s request that the billboards be removed from the campaign by saying the local ČSSD organization in Most will discuss it tomorrow. "I will take a vote on removing the billboards. We are a democratic party, so if the committee decides the posters should be removed, we will take them down within a few days,” he said.

Tancoš would not give a direct answer on whether he will vote for taking the billboards down. "I will respond to developments in the local organization and decide on that basis,” he said.

The campaign reported on by MF Dnes had previously been criticized by the ROMEA civic association and the director of the Agency for Social Inclusion, Martin Šimáček.

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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