You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 Czech Communists on the Rise

Czech Communists on the Rise

A recent opinion poll, according to which the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) has become the second most popular political party in the country, has provoked a wave of panic among democratic political parties and commentators. Other polls still show the KSCM in the third place but at the same time indicate that the party’s popularity is on the rise, while the popularity of the governing Social Democrats (CSSD) is fading. The right-of-center Civic Democratic Party (ODS) is currently the most popular political party, although its current popularity is lower than in the June 1998 elections.

There are numerous reasons for the Communists’ rise. Most important, while the Czech Republic finds itself in the midst of an economic crisis, leaders of democratic parliamentary parties show an appalling lack of willingness to search commonly for solutions. Although the last year’s electoral results allowed, and still allow, for at least three majority coalitions, including a coalition of right-of-center parties, leaders of the democratic parties have been unable to find a common language. The country is therefore governed by a weak minority government of the CSSD.

That government was formed under the so-called opposition agreement between the CSSD and the right-of-center Civic Democrats (ODS). It gave the ODS important state posts in exchange for not only allowing the creation of the leftist minority government but also promising that the ODS will not initiate or support a vote of no-confidence in the government. The weak CSSD government has been unable to initiate important economic reforms.

The opposition agreement is seen by an increasing number of people as essentially a power-sharing arrangement between the two largest parties, whose main purpose is to limit the influence of other political actors, such as small parties and the president. The ODS and the CSSD have unabashedly worked on constitutional amendments and changes to the electoral law that would benefit them. An increasing number of Czechs feel that the opposition agreement has intensified the country’s political and economic paralysis. However, little can be done to change the situation as long as the two parties adhere to their arguments that the opposition agreement works well and that there are no real alternatives to it.

The KSCM has explored the bad political and economic situation in the country to its advantage. In fact, it has not been very difficult for communist leaders to portray leaders of the democratic parties as incapable of governing. The KSCM is the only party that has not been involved in any government since 1989 and, therefore, is not blamed for failures of the economic transformation or various corruption scandals. An increasing number of people see the Communists as a “clean” party. This perception has not been effectively countered by leaders of the democratic parties. Being too busy attacking one another, they have not been able to get across a simple message; namely, that that the Communist ruined the country during their forty-year rule.

Most followers of the KSCM were until recently old people who felt threatened by economic reforms. Many of the KSCM’s new supporters are apparently disgruntled voters of the CSSD, who feel that the CSSD is either not pursuing leftist policies. Many new followers of the KSCM are apparently also young people who have no memories of the communist system.

The rise of the KSCM could erode the current relationship between the CSSD and the ODS. The CSSD will have to take steps to recover some of its lost popularity. CSSD Chairman Milos Zeman believes that it will happen once the economy begins to recover. Some other CSSD leaders are, however, more skeptical. Only two months ago, the CSSD vigorously promoted such changes to the electoral law that would benefit the two biggest parties. Now, the CSSD will be very careful to agree on such changes. Should the rise of the KSCM continue, the CSSD could be swept away under such an electoral law.

The possibility that the Communists could return to power is still small. However, such danger should not be entirely ruled out. An astounding 70 percent to 80 percent of Czech do not trust political parties and are disgusted with politics. Unemployment and other symptoms of economic crises will continue to grow for a period of time. Such an environment suits the extreme left, represented by the Communists.

Literární noviny - 22. 7. 1999