Social Democrat leadership up in arms over local government coalition with
A rift has developed within the Social Democratic Party over the decision
of the local party organization in the north Bohemian town of Duchcov to
enter into a coalition with the ultra-right Workers Social Justice Party
whose members have in the past organized anti-Romany demonstrations in the
town. The party’s national leadership has distanced itself from the
coalition and called for the local party organization to be scrapped, but
the party’s regional leadership has surprisingly refused to comply,
arguing that the coalition is perfectly legitimate.
Duchcov, a town of 9,000 inhabitants in north Bohemia, has frequently made
headlines in the past year due to growing anti-Romany sentiment among the
locals. The problems flared up in the wake of an attack against a white
couple by five members of the Romany minority. Although a court later ruled
that the attack was not racially motivated the floodgates of anti-Romany
sentiment were wide open and the ultra-right Workers Social Justice Party
exploited the public mood to the full, organizing a number of anti-Romany
protests in the town that ended in violent clashes with the police.
The Workers Social Justice Party, successor to the Workers Party which was
dissolved by the Czech Supreme Administrative Court in February of 2010 on
the grounds that it incited racial hatred, came fourth in October’s local
elections and accepted an offer from the local Social Democratic Party
organization to enter into a three-way coalition made up of the Social
Democrats, the Workers Social Justice Party and the Communists.
The news evoked outrage at the party’s national leadership with party
leader, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka saying that under no condition
would any Social Democrat enter into a coalition with an ultra-right party
–in Duchcov or any other Czech town or village. He called a meeting of
the party’s national leadership which unanimously backed his demand for
the Duchcov local party organization to be scrapped and its members
expelled from Social Democrat ranks for violating the party’s statutes
and undermining its basic values.
However, Monday’s meeting of the party’s regional leadership in Usti
brought an unexpected development. The regional organization defied the
wishes of the party leadership saying it had studied the coalition
agreement signed in Duchcov and found nothing that would be in violation of
the party’s statutes. It moreover pointed out that the Workers Social
Justice Party was a legitimate political entity that had received support
from the locals.
Jaroslav Foldyna of the Usti leadership told Czech Television:
“We found nothing which would justify their expulsion, nothing on the
grounds of which we could say - get out of the party because you are
tarnishing our image; what you are supporting here is racist and xenophobic
– we found no such thing”.
The new town council in Duchcov has seven members – three Social
Democrats, three Communists and one councilor for the Workers Social
Justice Party. The latter –Jindřich Svoboda is a well-known figure in
the town having organized a series of anti-Romany protests. Although today
he claims to have nothing against the Romany minority, a statement posted
on his Facebook page in 2013 suggests otherwise - he welcomes growing
ethnic unrest and refers to the Roma as black swine who should all be
killed. Moreover as a former organizer of violent anti-Romany protests
Svoboda has now been put in charge of security in the town.
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka reacted to the latest developments
from Israel saying he was not going to let the matter rest and would
re-open a debate on the issue upon his return.