Friday, 17 August 2018

Hamáček: ČSSD leadership needs to include both political streams

ČTK |
14 February 2018

Prague, Feb 13 (CTK) - The new leadership that the Social Democrats (CSSD) will elect on Sunday should include politicians from both streams in the party, the "traditional" and the "centrist", CSSD deputy head Jan Hamacek, who is running for the party's leader, told CTK on Tuesday.

He also said the CSSD should launch talks about a possible next government with the ANO movement of Andrej Babis.

As long as the "centrist" and "traditional" streams were able to talk together, the Social Democrats were winning elections, he said.

"When one of the streams started to be suppressed, it turned out that this harmed the discussion in the party. Those suppressed lost motivation to work for the CSSD," Hamacek said, adding that the party has been losing these people who were genuine social democrats.

Former regional governor Jiri Zimola, a top representative of the traditional stream, belongs to the party's leadership, said Hamacek who is part of the centrist stream.

He said the two streams in the party should discuss matters, reach an agreement and then speak in one voice in public.

In the autumn general election, the Social Democrats defended only 15 of their 50 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and achieved their worst result ever.

Before the 2013 election, the centrist camp around party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka and the traditional camp around first deputy chairman Michal Hasek competed in the CSSD. Shortly after the victorious election, Hasek and his group aided by President Milos Zeman tried to oust Sobotka from the position of party leader, but their effort failed. Consequently, Sobotka became prime minister and his opponents, including Zimola, had to leave the CSSD leadership.

Due to the CSSD's falling preferences and inability to catch up with the popular ANO, its coalition partner, Sobotka gave up the posts of election leader and party chairman last spring.

Hamacek said if the CSSD new leaders reached an agreement on government cooperation with ANO, a CSSD referendum should take a vote on it.

The programme of the next government would be the key issue, he said, adding that the Social Democrats would be able to push through their programme if they were in charge of the health, labour and regional development ministries.

Babis recently mentioned Hamacek as a possible candidate for defence minister.

Prosecuted politicians should not be cabinet members, Hamacek said, referring to the criminal prosecution Babis has been facing over a suspected EU subsidy fraud. He said a solution might be that neither the ANO nor the CSSD leader would join the government.

Zimola is running for CSSD leader at the forthcoming election congress, too. The third favourite among the candidates for party head is CSSD acting head Milan Chovanec, who was originally among those wanting to remove Sobotka in December 2013 but he eventually moved to Sobotka's camp.

Hamacek criticised the police reshuffle signed by then interior minister Chovanec in mid-2016. Mainly due to bad communication, ANO misused this issue and launched a campaign against the CSSD, he said.

The government crisis resulting in Babis's dismissal as finance minister, which Sobotka pushed through in May 2017, also affected the election result because voters were disappointed by the cabinet disputes, Hamacek said.

Shortly before the election the atmosphere was influenced by the affair with lithium mining, he said, indicating that ANO created the false impression that the CSSD was giving Czech mineral resources to foreign firms.

Hamacek said the CSSD priorities this year are the autumn local and Senate elections.

"We must persuade the voters that the CSSD closed the chapter of searching for its identity and that it is a self-confident party with clear programme goals once again," he said.

Hamacek, 39, has been a lower house deputy since 2006. In 2013-17 he was the house's chairman. Now he is its first deputy chairman.

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