Czech Social Democratic Party
Published 5th December, 2012
The Czech Social Democratic Party or ČSSD was founded on 7th April 1878 as a semi-autonomous section of the Austrian labour movement. The ČSSD became an independent party in 1911. It describes itself as Left-wing and believes in Social Democracy and Keynesianism.
The Czech Social Democratic Party won its first election in 1920 after the formation of the new Czechoslovakia when it took 25.7% of the vote. It was weakened by the defection of its then Bolshevik wing in 1921. The party went on to serve in various coalitions but in 1938 was forced to join the National Labour Party under the post-Munich authoritarian regime.
Participating in the government in exile in London during the years of World War Two it returned at the end of the war and in the 1946 elections it won 37 of the 231 seats as part of the Communist dominated National Front. In 1948 the party merged with the Communist Party as an unwilling partner but continued to exist in exile.
Following the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989 the ČSSD was formally re-established the following year. It failed to gain any representation in 1990 but in 1992 it won 16 of the 200 seats in the parliament.
Following the 1993 Velvet Divorce the party renamed itself the Czech Social Democratic Party and in 1996 it won 61 seats to become the second largest party. It gave qualified external support to the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) government provided the privatisation of the transport and energy sectors was halted.
In 1998 the ČSSD won the general election, taking 74 of 200 seats and its leader, Miloš Zeman became the new prime minister.. The ODS in turn gave the ČSSD external support as a minority government under the so called ‘Opposition Agreement’. The party managed to win the 2002 general election with a slightly reduced 70 seats and Vladimir Špidla led a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL) and the Freedom Union – Democratic Union (US-DEU)
Although the ČSSD emerged with 74 seats in the 2006 general election it came second and was not able to form a coalition. It was only when two ČSSD members abstained during a vote of confidence that the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) along with the Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU–ČSL) and the Greens managed to form a government.
Again in 2010 the ČSSD came top of the poll with 56 seats in the 200 seat Chamber of Deputies but again it was unable to form a coalition government leaving it to the ODS to form a government with two new centre-right parties, TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV).
The Czech Social Democratic Party is a member of Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. In the European Parliament where it holds seven of the 22 national seats it is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group.