Josef Stršedula delivered the biggest surprise of the presidential super-debates – in his closing speech, he announced that he was resigning and supporting Danusha Nerudova. It can be assumed that this is more of a tactical release of Stršedula’s handbrake ahead of the electoral fiasco, and it is also possible that his votes are more likely to go to Andrei Babiš. His campaign was a big missed chance to restart the Czech left. But he can still try for this – for example, as the next chairman of the ČSSD.
The nomition of Josef Stršedula for the presidency was supposed to be another attempt to wake up the left. However, before the elections, it looked completely different, according to pre-election models, only 3% supported him. Stršedul’s campaign fell short of expectations. He started with this late, only at a time when Andrei Babish firmly held the role of voice of protest. Over time, he also began to support the origil President Zeman, whom he now even called the worst political leader in the state.
In the polls, he did not gain more than 5%, even Yaroslav Bashta missed him, so he was only third in the rating of “anti-government” candidates. His October demonstration against the government ended in a big fiasco, with far fewer people than previous events by Vrabel and Reichl.
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Candidate for no one
Strshedula was peculiarly half-hearted in everything: he doubted the support of Ukraine, but not as sharply as Vrabel’s Vaclavak. He criticized the government, but not as harshly as Babish and Bashta. It was difficult to associate him with anything. At the same time, his election campaign could have been the start of a political career, even if he had not won. Let’s imagine that Stršedula would have taken fourth place with a decent result above 10%. He will become visible in the elections, then he will be able to join the CSSD and build his leadership on the energy of the elections.
Now this scerio has disappeared, although, perhaps, not completely. Strshedula has long been close to the CSSD, he himself mentions that five years ago Bohuslav Sobotka invited him to run for president from the Social Democracy. In the past, Stršedul was often seen as a possible future leader of the Social Democrats. During Sunday’s debate, Stršedula stated that the ČSSD had voted in the parliamentary elections, he had already attended the party’s congress in Brno the day before, and rumors about his engagement revived.
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The Left’s Decline Continues
Yes, you read that right, the CSSD held a tiol meeting over the weekend. The congresses of social democracy were one of the highlights of the political season, something like a football derby. Previously, Czech Television had a studio, and almost all media had their own reporters. Less than four years ago, the president came to the party congress. The ČSSD congress this year in Brno was generally hard to notice. During the biggest price hike since the revolution, the traditiol left is as invisible as “their” presidential candidate on the campaign trail.
“I think the worst is over,” said Jan Hamacek, then re-elected chairman, at a press conference after the ČSSD congress in 2019. “Today, a self-confident party that knows what it wants and knows where it is going,” added the then Deputy Prime Minister. Looking back, it probably becomes clear that the worst period for HRSD was yet to come. Now it is full and there is no end in sight. Of the then leadership, only the current chairman, Michal Smarda, survived, and the former foreign minister, Petrzicek, also recently left.
It was Tomasz Petrzicek who recently ran for mayor of Prague 3 as the leader of the ČSSD coalition and the Future movement. The Alliance of the Left won only 2.77% in Zizkov, while the Solidarity coalition (ČSSD and Zeleni) led by An Shabatova won only 2.02% in the municipal elections in Prague. The project, which was supposed to restart the Czech left, burned down, although Petricek was on the list of candidates, and, for example, ex-premier Vladimir Špidla or former minister Jiří Dienstbier. The situation in Prague, of course, is somewhat different from the tiol one, but in other parts of the country the position of the KSRB is not much better, and in recent elections it lost most of its mandates.
What’s going on with the Czech left and why can’t they get more voters even while they’re recording? You can often hear this interpretation: the left has not gone away, the new left party is the YES movement, the progressive left is the Pirates. But the ANO movement is actually neither left nor right, it distributes populist “gifts” to everyone – whether it’s five thousand dollars for pensioners or the abolition of super-gross salaries. One gets the impression that the ANO has won against the left-wing voters, because during the years of being in power it has gained the upper hand over its left-wing coalition partner. And this was confirmed during the presidential campaign – the potential voters of Stršedula, apparently, remained with Babiš.
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Help Neruda or Babis?
Perhaps somewhat paradoxically and symbolically for the position of the Left, Stršedul supported Danusha Nerudova after his resigtion. The openly right-wing economist has supported university tuition fees, whose most vocal supporter is Miroslav Kalousek (who, by the way, was once opposed by 100,000 trade unionists, including Stršedula).
On the other hand, supporting Pavel or Babiš would probably make even less sense on the part of Stršedula, who positions himself as an anti-communist. He stressed that, according to him, Nerudova has social sensitivity. How Stršedul’s voters will react is now the biggest question. If the majority leans towards Andrei Babish, then the head of the ANO is confident in the second round. Of course, unless someone resigns…
While Stršedula may have helped himself the most, his gesture seemed stately and overshadowed the rest of the debate. Whether something like this could become a springboard for a new political career remains to be seen. HRSD has nothing to lose with Strchedula.
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