Chief says gov’t order to dissolve far-right group is ‘naive’ and loyalists will form new group.
Just hours before the Workers Party was banned in a landmark court ruling, the party leadership was issuing a defiant message accusing the government of naivety and vowing to continue organizing far-right political rallies.
The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) ordered that the party be dissolved Feb. 17. This was the second government attempt to officially ban the far-right Workers Party. The Constitutional Court in Brno took up the case Jan. 11, and issued its verdict just over a month later.
Despite the ruling, the neo-Nazi affiliated Workers Party is confident their message of intolerance will appeal to ever-increasing numbers, and it says the publicity surrounding the case has increased party membership.
The government accused the party of orchestrating far-right violence, while its leader, Tomáš Vandas, has insisted his party – despite its racist rhetoric – operates within the bounds of the law.
“I can definitely say the trial did not discredit us; quite the contrary,” Vandas told The Prague Post.
“Many citizens of different age groups have contacted us to join,” he said, before adding, “If the government thinks they will get rid of us and exclude us from political life, they are naive, and we will wake them up from such a dream very shortly.”
If the party is banned, it will regroup under a different name, he said.
“If our enemies believe by banning us they will get rid of us, they are wrong,” Vandas said. “We will continue in politics, and we are prepared for all outcomes. We are sure we will be on the candidates’ lists for the general election so that the citizens will have an opportunity to vote for us.”
The initial attempt to ban the party in March 2009 was widely seen as a half-hearted attempt by the embattled government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek.
The previous case against the party was only a few pages long, in contrast with current Interior Minister Martin Pecina’s case, a 70-page proposal with 85 addendums.
In closing arguments, Tomáš Sokol, the attorney for the government, said the evidence supported dissolving the party. Sokol argued it was racist, violent and xenophobic, provoking unrest and collaborating with the National Resistance and other ultra-right-wing organizations in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Sokol referred to photographs in which party members are shown giving the Nazi salute or standing together with known neo-Nazis. “I have seen no other party whose members would so frequently forget themselves as to give the Nazi salute,” Sokol told the court.
Vandas labeled the trial “political” in his closing argument. In his view, the government filed the motion because of the party’s growing popularity. Vandas claimed none of the evidence submitted proves the party was engaged in illegal activity. He also indicated the possibility that the party events that had culminated in violence had been intentionally disrupted by “agents” who wanted to discredit the party. He did not say what sort of “agents” he believed they were.
Vandas also said the party will run candidates in May’s general election despite the court ruling.
“That would be an excellent start to the election campaign for us,” he said. The party, for example, could run candidates under a new name, such as the Affiliated Workers’ Social Justice Party, he said.
Founded: Jan. 18, 2003
Leader: Tomáš Vandas
Stance: Extreme right-wing, accused of organizing attacks on minorities
Political results: No member ever elected to a legislative body. Garnered just 1.07 percent in 2009 European elections, its biggest electoral success
Bans: The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed a 2009 ban attempt. The ban Feb. 17 makes it the first political party to be banned in the Czech Republic