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On the Czech communist comeback

Early parliamentary elections were held in the Czech Republic this weekend, three months after the resignation of the government mired in a widescale corruption. Despite the presence of populist formations, the Communists have come out in a position of strength.

In a country where the media is controlled by press barons, dominated by the ‘consensus’ political parties, the last few weeks in the Czech Republic have been marked by vitriolic propaganda against the “red menace”, the expected rise of the Communists and their potential return to power.

The erosion of the traditional parties and the emergence of new populist parties funded by billionaires …

The first lesson to be drawn is that the right-wing parties in power since 2010 came out the losers. Embroiled in biggest corruption scandal in the history of the country, they have been further discredited as architects of the policies of rigor. The historic party of the right, of Vaclav Havel, the ODS, suffered an historic defeat, dropping from 20 % to 7%, obtaining just 16 seats. The pro-business Liberal Party ” TOP 09″ , led by Prince Karl Schwarzenberg, also saw its share of the vote fall from 17% to 12%.

The second lesson: the other pillar of the system, the Social Democratic Party (CSSD ), now in opposition, had ​​a very disappointing result: 20.5% of the vote and 50 seats, down from 2010 when it obtained between 25 and 30% of the vote.

Third lesson, as elsewhere in Europe when the traditional parties of the system are defeated and sink under the effect of austerity policies and scandals, new movements mixing anti-party populism with and ultra-liberal programs, advance. The Dawn of Direct Democracy” led by Japanese-Czech billionaire Tomio Okamura, secured 6.7 %. Ahead of them, ANO (“Action of Disgruntled Citizens”, which also means “YES” in Czech), led by Andrej Babis, obtained 18.7 % of the vote, and 47 seats.

Babis, who made his fortune in the agro -food industry, is today at the head of a business empire that made him the second richest man in the country. Controlling two national newspapers ( Mlada fronta Dnes , Lidove noviny ) and especially the free “Metro” read by a million Czechs, Babis has based his campaign on the rejection of the traditional “political class”, anti- elitist populism and a neo-liberal program.

Babis follows spreading model in Europe, first Berlusconi, followed by Franz Stronach in Austria and Bidzina Ivanishvili in Georgia: the image of the self made billionaire ready to manage their own country as business.

The Communist Party at 15% , the highest level in 10 years 

Last and probably the main lesson of these elections is the excellent result achieved by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, rising from 11.2 % in 2010 to 14.9% gaining 100,000 votes and 6 seats, with 33 seats in the Parliament.

It’s the best result since the 2002 national elections, and the second best result after the counter-revolution of 1989. There are few surprises in the geographical distribution of the votes. Except in the capital Prague, the party exceeded 10% everywhere, and it soared in its traditional heartlands. Excellent results in the east, in Moravia and Silesia (17% in Olomouc, 17.5% in the North Moravia) , as well as the northwest and in the Sudetenland (16.4% in Southern Bohemia, 15.7% in Plzen, 16.8% Vysocina and 20.3% in Usti nad Labem).

After the success of the regional elections in October 2012, which saw the Communists secure second place, snapping at the heels of the social democrats, and even conquering power in one region (Usti nad Labem), this weekend’s elections are another confirmation of the communist advance ( KSČM ).

The result confirms the recognition by the Czech people of the party’s programme focusing on the defence and reclamation of public services, defence of the pension system and progressive tax reforms aimed at a greater contribution from the rich and businesses.

A headache for the Czech ruling class

However, for the Czech political class, the advance of the Communist Party combined with the disappointing outcome of the Social Democrats and the sinking of the traditional right are likely to turn into a headache. After the election, there are two options.

The first, which scares the reactionary right , is very unlikely. A government led by the Social Democrats, supported by the Communists. With 83 seats out of 300, this government would in fact still be in the minority.

The second option is a “grand coalition ” which might be more credible. Perhaps less with the OSD than with some new populist groups, no doubt with the Christian Democrats, and inevitably ANO with its 47 seats. In the spirit of its populist message, ambiguous and opportunistic, ANO insisted first that he would not participate in a government of the Left … and then declared himself open to dialogue, an opportunity, no doubt, to try to slash jobs and pursue neoliberal reforms.

Finally, there is a third option, which seems inevitable in the short or medium term, that is to say, new elections. For the Assembly is now even more balkanized than before.

One thing is for sure, the Communist Party will emerge stronger to defend the interests of workers in the country, against austerity in whatever guise it comes.

Solidarity Internationale PCF

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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