Czech Communists Risk Historic Defeat As Vote Looms

A video clip tagged “farewellcomrades” has gone viral ahead of this week’s Czech elections as the Communist Party faces a parliamentary wipe-out, 32 years after being toppled in the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

The clip features a queue for food reminiscent of the long lines seen during the former Communist command economy in then Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989.

More than three decades since the Czechs overthrew the regime, the party now risks crashing out of parliament for the first time since World War II.

“Their voter base is dying out or deserting them for other parties,” said Otto Eibl, an analyst at Masaryk University in the second Czech city of Brno. “And they’re obviously not able to revamp themselves in a way that would ensure their survival,” he told AFP.

The Communist Party currently has 15 seats in the 200-seat Czech lower house of parliament, down from 33 in 2013-2017.

Opinion polls ahead of the parliamentary election show that it risks failing to muster the five percent voter support required for any political party to enter parliament despite its efforts to woo young voters born after Communist rule.

It is also fighting with something of an image problem for its far-left credentials after giving support to the minority government of embattled billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia — the party’s official name — already suffered major losses in regional elections last year.

Katerina Konecna, a Czech Communist member of the European Parliament, admits that her party has failed to adapt to a pluralistic democracy in which “parties that can sell themselves win”.

Three years ago, the Communists agreed to an offer from Babis to prop up the government his populist ANO (YES) party formed with the left-wing Social Democrats.

The Communists’ support for Babis was the closest they came to power since 1989, after spending three decades in opposition, but it may well have been their political swan song.

“By practically joining the government, the Communists lost their status of a protest party,” said Josef Mlejnek, an analyst at Charles University in Prague.

Konecna, who boasts 20,000 followers on Facebook, knows that young blood is crucial. “It won’t be easy, but I already have a team of young communists who are working hard for the party,” she said.

 

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