Zeman Chooses His Enemy
With what is conventionally seen as the right hand side of the political spectrum bitterly divided, the Czech Social Democrats should only be celebrating. The preference polls show them far ahead of any other party, and most of the Republic seems resigned to a Social Democratic led government forming after elections in a few months. The past two weeks have shown, however, that the Social Democrats don't really know what to do with a lead, and they don't know what to do without a clearly identifiable opponent.
First, we had the ridiculous conspiracy theories of Stanislav Gross who very unconvincingly tried to warn the world that the ODS split and the rise of US was only a "velke divadlo". I don't think anyone bought that nonsense.
Now we have the party leader Zeman suggesting that the new Social Democratic Party financing scandal is all a clever plot of US. At the end of last week, Zeman noted that US leader Ruml would have had access to materials compromising to CSSD because he was head of spooks and spies at the Interior Ministry for many years. Zeman also pointed out that the current scandal is in the interest of US.
So, there you have it then. Case proved.
Hardly. No papers have been produced which would show that Ruml is behind the current scandal. Zeman has offered only suggestions, not evidence. The reader will certainly recall that this is not the first time Zeman has suspected Ruml's Interior Ministry of anti-CSSD actions. In the absence of proof, however, this is just another wild conspiracy theory.
But while Zeman will not convince the Czech voter that the world is against CSSD anymore than Gross was able to do, these latest accusations will serve an end which Zeman did not have in mind when he made them. His words will actually serve to magnify the power of the forces against his party and serve to unite the right somewhat.
Usually when a party has a lead in the polls, it is party strategy to make opponents appear divided and confused. Saying that there are many opponents sends voters who are against you in many directions; it sends opposing votes to many different opposing parties. Zeman has just done the reverse, however.
With this recent suggestion of a US plot, Zeman has clearly and publicly identified his main enemy. This was a foolish political move, because it sent a message to people: this is the one we are fighting, this is the one we really fear. From that message, voters learn that the most serious contender for Zeman is Ruml. This will concentrate the anti-CSSD vote into one party: US.
With the right divided into three or four bitterly opposed parties, CSSD should have sailed into the election and won with ease. Now, in addition to the scandal itself which will hurt the party, Zeman has just done more to unite the right against him than anyone else on the right has managed to do in months of trying.
Perhaps this shows a general political incompetence which will continue to hinder this party's success, but I also think it is a sign of a party that has been in opposition for too long. Being in opposition for years makes conspiracy theories seem possible. Being in opposition for years causes confusion when at last you are clearly on top. Without a clearly recognisable single enemy, CSSD leaders don't really know what to do, so they are helping to create one.
The citizens of the Czech Republic ought to hope that CSSD develops a little more political savvy if this party comes to power after the next election.