>Populist Czech Christian Democrat leader is no Lepper

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Aktualne.cz notes the parallels between the position of the minority centre-right Czech and Polish centre-right governments in managing junior partners mired in corruption allegations. Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski can happily give populist Agriculture Minister and Deputy PM Andrzej Lepper the boot, whereas Czech PM Miroslav Topolánek has to hang on for dear life to Christian Democrat leader, Minsiter of Local Development and Deputy PM, Jiří Čunek. Despite the general respectability of the Czech Christian Democrats compared to Lepper’s radical Self-Defence party, Čunek (a former mayor elected to the Senate last year) is one a of a new breed of Czech populists with a background in communal politics, who have discovered that brutal remarks directed towards the Roma minority are something of a vote winner – perhaps because with the collapse of the Czech far-right as a national electoral force whose stock in trade they were they have lost their taboo status. The Czech Republic’s having safely joined the EU probably adds to this as well.

However (the Greens aside) it is the police investigation into Čunek’s alleged acceptance of a backhander as mayor seems to make him more of a political liabilty than his views on ethnic minorities. Sadly, for Topolánek such is the weakness of his government and the unhealthy state of the polls – the Czech Social Democrats, who have been slowly rising from the political dead since 2005, finally overhauled him – that he not only cannot pulled the plug of Čunek, but needs to maintain him politically. Whereas, the Kaczynskis’ Law and Justice party can bid goodbye to the radicals of Self-Defence and the League of Polish Families and seek the mainstream embrace of the liberal-conservative Civic Platform, the Czech right is painfully short of allies. As a seminar discussion on the CEVRO thintank site makes clear, the Czech Christian Democrats despite Čunek’s dose of populism are a stagnating rural Cathlic niche party with a static socially conservative electorate somewhat out of step with the more centrist and market-oriented oreitnation of its leaders.

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