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Leader of Workers’ Party promises reformation under new name as government requests banning
25-11-2008 - Ian Willoughby
The government is seeking the banning of the Workers’ Party, the far-right grouping who made international headlines after trying to attack a largely Romany estate in a north Bohemian town last week. At the same time, the party’s leader has already said that if they are banned they will simply come back under a different name.

Photo: CTK Dělnická strana (the Workers’ Party) entered the public consciousness in a big way last Monday, when several hundred of their supporters fought a pitched battle with police in Litvínov, after they were prevented from entering a mostly Romany estate. It was the worst street violence seen in the Czech Republic in several years and made the news around Europe.

However, the Workers’ Party were not an unknown quantity before that rioting. Groups monitoring far-right extremism had been calling for their prohibition for some time. And the minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, was already working on a proposal to ban them.

With the events in Litvínov having brought the subject into the spotlight, the cabinet on Monday backed Mr Langer’s plan to ask the Supreme Administrative Court to ban the neo-Nazi grouping. It is the first time since the fall of communism in 1989 that such a request has been made by the government on the basis of the actual activities of an extremist group; previously, parties have been barred on technicalities.

Ivan Langer and Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK Justifying the banning request at a news conference, Minister Langer read from a recent Workers’ Party’s statement, in which they call for zero tolerance towards the post-revolution political system, the elimination of which they have been demanding for some time.

Now it is the Workers’ Party themselves that could be eliminated. However, what that means in practical terms could be hard to measure, as the group’s leader Tomáš Vandas has already said its members would reform under a different name.

By the way, Mr Vandas has a history in extremist politics: in the 1990s he was a member of Miroslav Sládek’s Republicans, the only far-right party ever to enter the Czech Parliament. Another Worker’s Party leader, Erik Sedláček, is currently in prison for Holocaust denial and calling for the liquidation of Jews.

As well as pushing for the barring of the Workers’ Party, the cabinet on Monday voted to establish by the end of February a new inter-ministerial body to monitor extremists on both the far-right and the far-left.

Meanwhile in Litvínov, where the Workers’ Party and their supporters went on the rampage eight days ago, the local authorities are bracing themselves for more trouble. Several applications to hold demonstrations have been lodged at the town hall. Some are from Romany and Jewish groups. The others are from neo-Nazis, including the Workers’ Party, who want to hold a protest on December 13 against police brutality and in support of “dealing with the problem of unadaptable residents” – code for Romanies.

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