Workers’ Party is dissolved for illegal Nazi ideology
The Supreme Administrative Court in Brno has decided that a second motion filed by the Czech Government to dissolve the Workers’ Party is grounds for the party to be dissolved. In the opinion, presiding judge Vojtech Simicek mentioned several points of the party’s program which contravene the law. According to the opinion, the party is “populist, homophobic, chauvinistic, and demonstrates racist tendencies.” The court also evaluated the content of the party’s campaign ads, which Czech Radio refused to broadcast due to their references to “Gypsies”, as the party calls Roma. The court found that the ads were racist as they passed judgment on the Roma ethnicity as a whole. While the court recognized that many of the topics raised by the party are actual social problems, generalizations about a particular group of people on the basis of their ethnicity are unacceptable under the law. The party defines itself through generalizing about the Jewish, Roma, Vietnamese and other minorities, as well as about homosexuals, immigrants, etc., creating the impression that the majority is threatened by the existence of these minorities. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the party attacks the very basis of the democratic state system.
At around 13:00 CET today, riot police intervened against Workers’ Party promoters after they refused to obey police instructions to leave the area in front of the courthouse. Followers of Workers’ Party chair Tomas Vandas chanting “Long Live the Workers’ Party”, “Freedom”, “Down with the Police” and “Police State” moved into Pricni street, where Vandas and his fellow party member Martin Zbela were speaking. Police succeeded in ending the march at around 13:00. The daily Pravo reports one protester was detained.
The government proposed banning the Workers’ Party because authorities viewed it as posing a threat to democracy, collaborating with neo-Nazis, and having totalitarianism as its aim. The party contests the charges and sees the proposal as an attempt to silence inconvenient political competition. Party members and promoters gathered this morning in front of the courthouse. Writing on Facebook, party chair Vandas said the party promoters stood “against the government mafia and corrupt crooks.” The party issued a press release stating that after today’s hearing, Vandas, vice-chair Jiri Stepanek, and party presidium member Martin Zbela have been summoned to a police station for interrogation regarding speeches they gave at a 1 May event in Brno in 2009.
This is the government’s second attempt to dissolve the party. The court rejected its first proposal for lack of evidence. Experts say the government submitted better material this time around. “This is what the legal culture should look like,” said lawyer and political scientist Miroslav Mares. “This is good news for the citizens of the Czech Republic,” Czech Interior Minister Martin Pecina said upon hearing the verdict.
The government argued, for example through expert testimony, that the party’s symbols and verbal displays referred to Hitler’s National Socialism. Attorney for the government Tomas Sokol submitted dozens of pages of evidence to the court. The special seven-member panel viewed video recordings of the street battles in the Janov quarter of the town of Litvinov and heard from police officers who investigate extremism. Workers’ Party members who were summoned to testify refused to do so; Vandas provided legal representation for the party on his own and was the only party member to communicate with the court.
In its previous verdict on the first motion to dissolve the party, the court indicated the conditions under which a political party might be dissolved. First and foremost, the government must gather sufficient evidence of the party’s illegal behavior. According to the law on association in political parties, it is illegal, for example, to strive to overturn the democratic basis of the state, to attempt to usurp power, or to suppress equality before the law. The actions identified as illegal must be attributable to the political party concerned. The government must also prove the party represents an immediate threat to the democractic order and the rule of law. It is also necessary to prove that the suppression of the right to associate in that political party is balanced by the need to protect other important values, such as state security and public order.
Vandas and his followers make no secret of the fact that they do not intend to end their political activity. They now have two options: Establish a new party, or exploit an existing one. It is most probable that they are now considering joining a party established by Vandas’s mother, the Workers’ Justice Party. The similar name would make it easy for Workers’ Party supporters to identify the party’s successor in the next elections.
Approximately 30 000 people voted for the Workers’ Party in the most recent elections to the European Parliament. Political scientists expect the party to achieve similar results in the upcoming parliamentary elections. According to research performed by the Median agency, the Workers’ Party could receive 1.8 % of the vote. The Center for Public Opinion Research predicts it will receive 1.5 %.
According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the party may appeal the verdict by complaining to the Constitutional Court. The appeal will delay the verdict taking effect until such time as the Constitutional Court rules. Speaking after the verdict was announced, Vandas told journalists the party will avail itself of this opportunity.
Attempts to ban extremist parties in other countries
Belgium: In November 2004, the Belgian Supreme Court upheld a lower court verdict charging the extreme-right Vlams Bloc (“Flemish Bloc”) party with multiple violations of the laws against racism. The party was ordered to end its activities. After a few days it voluntarily dissolved itself and resumed its activities under the name “Flemish Interest”. The party is currently in parliament.
Germany: The German Government and Parliament officially requested a ban of the extreme-right NPD party in 2001. In March 2003, the German Constitutional Court rejected the request and also halted the proceedings which would have led to a ban because it came to light that the alleged party activists on whose actions the charges were based were in fact secret service agents.
Russia: In 2005, a lower court ordered the dissolution of the National Bolshevik Party (NBS). The ban was upheld by the Supreme Court. The NBS is an ultra-left nationalist organization also known as the “Limonovs” after its leader, controversial author Eduard Limonov, who founded the party after returning to Russia in 1991 from years of emigration in France and the USA. The party was labeled extremist and the court justified its ban by demonstrating that the party called for the violent overthrow of the government and for ethnic conflicts. Party representatives claim, however, that the party has developed over the years and is now closer to the liberal opposition. Limonov, for example, is a regular participant in events convened by the main opposition group, Another Russia.
Slovakia: In March 2006, the Slovak Supreme Court banned the nationalist party Slovak Solidarity – National Party, which espoused the legacy of former Slovak President Jozef Tiso, who governed during WWII. The party, led by Marian Kotleba, proposed restricting voting rights, which is unconstitutional. After the party was banned, members went on to found a civic association called Slovak Solidarity, which continues to operate today despite efforts by the Slovak Interior Ministry to dissolve it.
Spain: The Spanish Supreme Court decided in 2003 to ban the Basque radical separatist party Batasuna, which is considered the political wing of the ETA terrorist organization. The party was banned on the basis of a new Spanish law (valid since June 2002) which makes it possible to ban and dissolve any political party whose activity disturbs or threatens freedom and the democratic system. The party was established in April 1978 as a bloc of four parites and independent “abertzales” (“patriots”) including both nationalist radicals and social democrats. The original name of the party was Herri Batasuna. It was recognized as a legal party in 1986.
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