Saturday, 20 January 2018

ODS leader Fiala has no rival before election congress

ČTK |
12 January 2018

Prague, Jan 11 (CTK) - Czech Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala, who is defending his post, has no rival candidate and he is supported by all regional branches before the party's national election congress to be held in Ostrava, north Moravia, on January 13-14.

Fiala, 53, will ask the congress delegates for another mandate at the party's helm in his speech on Saturday morning. He said he would like to return the ODS, a former government party, to the political top.

ODS first deputy chairwoman Alexandra Udzenija, 42, who also seeks re-election, has a similarly strong position before the congress.

Some 540 delegates to the congress in Ostrava will also elect members of the broad leadership and other party bodies.

The congress will start on Saturday, which is also the second day of the presidential election's first round.

The ODS chose the date before the presidential election dates were set and it does not want to change it in view of the high number of delegates, organisational conditions and mainly because the mandate of the ODS elected bodies expires soon, Fiala said.

The congress will be held exactly two years after Fiala was elected the ODS chairman for the second time. He has been heading the party since 2014.

Under his leadership, the ODS became the second strongest force in the Chamber of Deputies in the last October general election, gaining 11.3 percent of the vote and 25 mandates. However, it ended much behind the winning ANO with 29 percent and 78 mandates in the 200-seat lower house.

The October election catapulted the ODS to the position of a clear right-wing leader on the Czech political scene, Fiala said. The party is in a good condition after its decline in 2013 when it scored its worst ever election result of some 7.7 percent only, he added.

"I do not like leaving unfinished work and this is why I have decided to run for the post of ODS chairman and seek your trust again," Fiala writes to the delegates in the invitation to the congress.

The elections of the party chairman and deputy chairpersons is scheduled for Saturday. Guests will give speeches at the beginning of the congress. On Sunday morning, the delegates will elect the party's bodies and debate various issues.

Fiala told CTK that during his next mandate, he would like to strive for increasing support for the ODS, strengthen its position of the right-wing leader and push through its programme points to make people's lives better and easier.

He wants to start preparing for the autumn local and Senate elections immediately after the congress.

"I consider our success in the local and Senate elections one of the ODS priorities for 2018," he said.

Fiala refused to anticipate the lineup of the new party leadership after the congress. He praised his work with the current team of deputy chairpersons.

Along with Fiala and Udzenija, the regional nomination conferences also supported the candidacy of the current ODS deputy chairmen Martin Kupka, Milos Vystrcil and Evzen Tosenovsky.

Only one of the current deputy heads, Drahomira Miklosova, former mayor of Obrnice, north Bohemia, is not in the nomination of deputy heads.

Besides, former industry and trade minister Martin Kuba would like to run for the party leadership again. MPs Karel Krejza and Martin Baxa have also received nominations for deputy heads.

The Prague ODS organisation unanimously nominated Fiala as its candidate for party chairman and supported Udzenija as first deputy head.

Fiala's critic, Vaclav Klaus Junior, son of former PM and ex-president Vaclav Klaus, failed in the elections of the new leadership of the Prague ODS, running for its first deputy head. After the general election, Klaus criticised Fiala's tactics for the campaign, saying it should have been more visible. Fiala says the ODS respects different views.

"However, if a decision is made, we are jointly pulling at the same end of the rope," Fiala said about the ODS's unity.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) said he was waiting for the results of ODS congress in connection with talks about possible support for his minority government.

The ODS has so far refused to support it. It claims Babis has not even tried to lead talks with the Civic Democrats, but he formed his ANO minority cabinet at once with aid of President Milos Zeman. The ODS does not agree with the Babis government's policy statement either.

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