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Regional SocDems ok local coalition with ultra-right, Czech PM insists local cell must close

Ústí nad Labem, 24.11.2014 23:23, (ROMEA)
On 6 November 2014 the inaugural session of the newly-elected council of the town of Duchcov took place. Three representatives of the right-wing extremist DSSS party are seated on the council (from left to right):   Jindřich Svoboda, Miroslav Toman and Miluše Janoušková. (PHOTO: ČTK)
On 6 November 2014 the inaugural session of the newly-elected council of the town of Duchcov took place. Three representatives of the right-wing extremist DSSS party are seated on the council (from left to right): Jindřich Svoboda, Miroslav Toman and Miluše Janoušková. (PHOTO: ČTK)

The Ústí Regional leadership of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) has not closed the Duchcov cell of the party over its coalition with the ultra-right Workers Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and has also not expelled any of its members involved. According to the head of the regional ČSSD organization, Radek Scherfer, there is no reason to do so.

Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, who chairs the ČSSD, is insisting the party's cell in Duchcov close. The PM told the Czech News Agency that his party will review the case again at the December meeting of its Central Executive Committee.

"We will mandatorily task the regional organization with engaging in correcting the situation," Sobotka said. "I insist that the only adequate response is to close the local organization and for the members who are acting against the credibility and principles of the ČSSD as a democratic, left-wing party to leave," he wrote in a text message sent to the Czech News Agency from Israel, where he is on a state visit.  

"The Central Executive Committee is the party's highest body in between conventions and has that power, it can decide on its own to close a party organization," Scherfer told the Czech News Agency. He has not yet read Sobotka's response.  

The Duchcov Social Democrats have concluded a coalition agreement with the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) and the DSSS. Sobotka previously labeled collaboration with the DSSS unacceptable.

"The resolution [of the Regional Executive Committee] is such that at this moment we do not find the coalition agreement that has been concluded violates the statutes and we are de facto backing the representatives in Duchcov. If a political party is not banned, I am not of the opinion that it would violate the statutes for our Duchcov organization to enter into coalition with it," Scherfer told the Czech News Agency.  

The Regional ČSSD has also appealed to the national party leadership to address the issue of socially excluded localities. "We ask the party leadership and our ministries to pay attention to the inadaptable citizens and excluded localities per se," Scherfer said.

Scherfer claimed the vote by the Regional Executive Committee was unanimous. ČSSD Vice-Chair Milan Chovanec was more cautious than the PM in his response to the regional organization's procedure.

Chovanec told the Czech News Agency that he first wanted to ask his party colleagues from the Ústí Region why they had made such a decision and "whether there isn't some background to it that I am unaware of." He did not want to anticipate whether the party leadership would recommend the Central Executive Committee exclude the Duchcov members.

"We first want to know their opinion as to why they are not listening to the party leadership," Chovanec said. For his part, DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas has welcomed the decision by the ČSSD regional organization in a press release as a "victory for reason".

Vandas also said the decision shows that the statewide leadership of the ČSSD cannot always enforce its will at any cost in regions that are grappling with big problems. According to Mayor of Duchcov Zbyněk Šimbera (ČSSD), the regional party leadership has accepted the local reasons for going into a coalition government with the DSSS in Duchcov.    

The mayor sees no problem in collaborating with the right-wing extremist party. "The DSSS is a legitimate party and the KSČM is too, so I have formed a coalition in the way I believe is most rational," he said.

 "There were options for other coalitions there that our colleagues did not take advantage of. We disagree that our party will be in coalition with a party we view as extremist and with which the ČSSD should not collaborate," Chovanec told the Czech News Agency previously.

The ČSSD has three representatives on the seven-member executive council of Duchcov, just like the KSČM. The final seat is held by the DSSS.  

On the larger council, the ČSSD ticket has a total of five people, three of whom are also party members. In addition to Mayor Šimbera its members are Andrea Albertová and Jiří Chvojka.  

Chvojka won his seat after Jindřiška Semelková, not a party member, gave up hers. The Duchcov cell of the KSČM has also met over the possible exclusion of one of its members for collaborating with the DSSS.  

Jiří Kraft, chair of the Duchcov KSČM cell, refused to tell the Czech News Agency what kind of resolution was adopted on the issue. The DSSS is represented on the town council by its leading candidate, Jindřich Svoboda, who has convened anti-Romani demonstrations in the town previously.  

Martin Klika, a regional councilor for the ČSSD, wished Svoboda luck before the local elections through Facebook. In a status update this past July, Klika wrote the following to Svoboda after a conversation about the upcoming autumn local elections:  "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."  

An anti-Romani mood and protests erputed in Duchcov last year after several Romani individuals assaulted a non-Romani married couple on the street. This past March the court sentenced the five people involved to sentences ranging from a year's probation to three years in prison.

According to the verdict the attack was not racially motivated. Last year a protest organized by the DSSS in June ended in clashes with police.

Svoboda has previously been conviced of fraud. He falsely sought reimbursement for hundreds of thousands of crowns worth of travel to Prague from his insurance company, supposedly for medical treatment.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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