Czech Social Democrats MPs back party leader Sobotka in row with rivals.

By bne IntelliNews October 30, 2013

Bohuslav Sobotka, the chairman of Czech election winner Social Democrats (CSSD), was backed by the party’s lawmakers in his row with rivals who wanted him to step down and not be part of the negotiating team that will hold talks with centrist parties on forming a new government, Radio Prague reported.

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 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 form his own negotiating team threatening to further complicate coalition talks. CSSD senators and members of the lower house supported Sobotka and voted him to return to the negotiating team in a sign that the rebellion might be on the wane.

CSSD’s 190-member central executive committee, the party’s highest body after the congress, will convene on Nov 10 to decide whether Sobotka will stay as party head. Sototka said talks with potential partners will start after Nov 10.

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 will 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 is threatening to prolong post-election deal-making 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.

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