Far-right set to succeed in regional elections in Ústí
Unemployment causes rise in extremist and racist sentiments
Posted: October 10, 2012
Tomáš Vandas, head of the DSSS and recent self-proclaimed presidential candidate, was formerly head of the Workers Party, which was dissolved in 2010 for neo-Nazi associations.
Some 70 people took part in a protest march against socially "unadaptable" citizens passing by dormitories inhabited mainly by members of the Roma minority in Ústí nad Labem Oct. 6. The march was led by the DSSS (Workers Party of Social Justice), an extra-parliamentary rightist extremist party.
The DSSS is expected to succeed in the Ústí region in the Oct. 12-13 regional elections, according to a STEM/MARK a SC&C survey conducted for Czech Television. The poll projects DSSS will receive 3 percent to 4 percent of votes.
In one-third of the constituency, voters will also choose their representatives for the Senate.
Experts find the new trend alarming but not surprising, as the Ústí region is currently a hub for racial problems. Anti-Roma marches are common in the area, especially around Šluknov, where hundreds of anti-riot police had to intervene last year. Flags and banners of the DSSS have flown at practically every incident in the area.
According to extremism expert Miroslav Mareš from Masaryk University in Brno, the Workers Party's success is based on obvious factors. "Generally speaking, these parties tend to find constituency in socially disadvantaged regions. They mostly profit from the Roma question," he says.
Despite the fact that the Ústí region in north Bohemia registered the biggest socioeconomic shift from all Czech regions in the past four years, according to the results of an annual survey by MasterCard, the traditional industrial and coal-mining region is still haunted by sky-high unemployment, crime and the lack of a university-educated work force.
In an area where left-wing parties and the Communists, in particular, have always found a staunch voter base, DSSS leader Tomáš Vandas has been attempting to slice off a piece for his party. The Prague native and recent self-proclaimed candidate for the national presidency tirelessly travels across the Ústí region to gain support among disgruntled residents, capitalizing on the rich organizational base of far-right supporters.
"The typical DSSS voter is a young, underpaid or unemployed male, usually with basic education," Mareš says.
The DSSS's ideological roots are a successor of Vandas' previous party, the Workers Party, which was dissolved in 2010 by the Supreme Administrative Court after being found to present a threat to the democratic system. Its leaders were publicly associated with neo-Nazi groups and other ultra-right extremists.
"Their current strategy consists of rejecting profane individuals and aiming at broader social topics. They try very hard to gain credibility," Mareš says. "Paradoxically enough, the best scenario for the DSSS would be if the Communists and Social Democrats won the election and created a coalition in the region. Then the right-wing party could determine its politics against theirs."
Such a scenario could well become a reality in the Ústí region after the weekend vote. According to a STEM/MARK and SC&C survey conducted Sept. 7, some 22 percent of eligible voters would choose the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), followed by the Social Democrats (ČSSD) with 20.5 percent. Similar results are expected elsewhere in the country, with the ČSSD taking further control in the regions.
When Czechs last voted their representatives into regional councils in 2008, the Social Democrats, bolstered by the KSČM, seized the largest number of seats and left the Civic Democrats (ODS) unable to set rules for coalition negotiations in all 13 regions. At 40.3 percent, the voter turnout was unusually high.
Tomáš Rákos can be reached at