Czech Social Democrats leader defeats rebels, wins mandate to form new government.

By bne IntelliNews November 11, 2013

Bohuslav Sobotka, the leader of the Czech leftist Social Democrats (CSSD) that won the October general elections, won the backing of his party defeating rebels who resigned from the party’s leadership after a failed attempt to topple him.

CSSD won most of the votes in the Oct 25-26 general elections but it gained only 20.5% of the votes scoring its worst result since 1992. CSSD’s leadership body then called on Sobotka to resign and excluded him from the negotiating team blaming him for the party’s weak election result. But Sobotka refused to resign and said he will wait for the decision of the party’s central executive committee whether he should step down or not. The 190-member committee, the party’s highest body after the congress, backed Sobotka on November 10 giving him a mandate to start talks with potential partners to form a coalition government. Two days before the vote, Sobotka’s rebels including CSSD deputy chairmen Michal Hasek and Zdenek Skromach as well as Jeronym Tejc, the chairman of CSSD' parliamentary caucus, resigned from their posts clearing the way to Sobotka to seek the nomination as prime minister.

CSSD wants to launch talks on forming a three-party government with centrist anti-corruption movement ANO that ranked second in the elections winning 18.7% of the votes and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) that won 6.78%. The three parties control 111 mandates in the 200-seat lower house. Forming a government with ANO would not be easy for CSSD without giving up some of its election promises. CSSD has pledged to raise taxes for big companies and high earners, while pro-business ANO is against tax hikes.

The internal rift within CSSD derailed talks with coalition partners extending the political turmoil that started in June with the collapse of a centre-right government amid a bribery and spying scandal. The graft scandals and the austerity drive of the former government have disgruntled voters who punished the mainstream parties opting for protest parties vowing to eliminate corruption and electing a record seven parties into a fragmented parliament. The new government should act quickly to approve next year's budget and embark on measures to kick-start the economy that is emerging from a record-long recession.

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