The Czech Communist Party of Moravia (KSČM, Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy) – known in Europe as being closest to old Soviet traditions – will, in all likelihood, play a decisive role in the election of the next President of the Czech Republic, that will take place next January. This will be the first time in the history of this Country that its citizens are called upon to vote for their president.

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Almost a quarter of a century after the Velvet Revolution, this will seem a rather surprising prospect – but only at first glance. However, it is even more so following the elections of last October (regional and senatorial elections), when the Ksčm party emerged as the second national political force, winning around 20% of the votes and taking full advantage of the unpopularity of the current centre-right government.

On closer inspection, the balance of power of the Communists in these presidential elections is thus not a novelty. Even the conservative Václav Klaus (an Ods exponent at the time), in 2003 as well as in 2008, would probably not have been elected if he had not received the tactical support of the Communist Party, including a series of votes by Ksčm parliamentarians.

The fundamental factor in the next January elections, as mentioned previously, will be the direct preferences of citizens. That is why the Communist electorate – which has always distinguished itself for its discipline in following the directives of its party leaders – could play an even more decisive role.

That is why two of the favourite candidates, both from the left – the Social Democrat Jiří Dienstbier and the former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman (ex Social-Democratic leader, now head of the Citizens’ Rights party), are doing everything they can to ensure the support of the Ksčm party, which among other things, has decided not to present a personal candidate to the presidential elections.

Both Zeman and Dienstbier have already begun their “courtship” initiative, declaring from the very outset of the electoral campaign that – in case of a presidential nomination and as long as the voting made it possible – they would have no difficulty in forming a future government with the participation or support from the Communists.

We also have to point out that there are a number of reservations on the part of the Ksčm, towards both aspects. As regards Zeman, a few of his political positions on foreign policy are considered rather disquieting, especially the fact that he supports the idea of a contingent pre-emptive attack on Iran, a prospect that the Communists categorically reject. There are also others who fear that a possible appointment of Zeman – ex leader of the Social Democratic Party, which he then controversially abandoned – could hinder future plans of cooperation between the Ksčm and the Čssd. As regards Dienstbier, the Communists do not like the fact that he is against the exploitation of nuclear energy.

Anyway, for both of them, on the whole, they do not represent an insurmountable impediment to Communist voters.

For several months now, in view of the presidential elections, the polls have rated as favourite the independent candidate Jan Fischer, the former technical prime minister and statistician. However, the projections refer to the first round of the presidential elections, set for January 11 and 12, where Fischer has in fact a real opportunity to rank in first position (28.1% according to the November Factum survey). It is therefore quite evident that only the ballot to be held on 25 and 26 January, will afford a decisive response. Therefore, the compact vote of the Communist electorate could really have an enormous impact on the election results.

One thing is clear: the Czech Communists will not vote for Fischer. Before 1989, he was a member of the Communist party, but has been repeating for years now that this past political experience was a mistake, a dark spot in his career. And to be more convincing to the centre-right electorate, which he is actually counting on, he has declared that as president, he will take sides against any attempt to form a government that includes or is supported by the Ksčm party.

According to the November Factum polling results, Zeman was rated at 19.4%, while Dienstbier achieved less than 10%. However, the latter could count on the support of a party such as the Social Democrats, the first political force in the Country; but a number of indications suggests that the winner might be Zeman, the old fox of Czech politics. Not only in the first round, but also in the final decisive ballot.

Back on the battlefield recently, with the establishment of the small Party of citizens’ rights, Zerman – who for eight years, from 2003 to 2011, had retired from politics to go and live in a country village. A retreat from public life – as many have alleged – that was used by him to prepare himself for the next challenge to the Castle, but not by giving up his two main passions: reading and something that he does not make a mystery of, Becherovka. Even the present head of state is betting on him: “He is the political personality with the highest moral stature”, Václav Klaus said about him.

To be considered is also Zeman’s involvement with a number of individuals with strong lobby and financial backgrounds, who according to various analysts, are ready to afford substantial support during the decisive phase of the campaign. Among other things, they are known to have played an integral part in the pre 1989 period of the Communist nomenclature.

Even this is an aspect that the nostalgic supporters of the old regime will not fail to take into consideration when they are called upon to express their vote to appoint the next tenant to the Prague Castle. With due respect for those who have argued that the direct elections by citizens would in fact eliminate the weight of power of the Communists in appointing the Head of State, in actual fact, the chances are that the exact opposite might occur.

by Giovanni Usai