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Biased president

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This is a first: the Czech president joined the election campaign of one party. It goes, of course, against sound moral judgment because the head of state is not supposed to rally in support of any party. But getting irritated over Václav Klaus’s conduct is useless. Rather, it’s worth considering why this is happening.

During the presidential election, Václav Klaus and his supporters laughed off concerns voiced by some commentators that in his second term, Klaus will be able to do whatever he wants because he can’t run for reelection anymore.

But we are now witnessing Václav Klaus break his promise that he would not favour any party. Why is he risking irritating the public? It’s not just because he has nothing to lose. Václav Klaus feels he is getting closer to his dream of seeing the fall of Mirek Topolánek (he refused his proposal for a grand coalition that would be independent of the ODS and of Klaus), and he wants to help his friend Pavel Bém, at whose birthday party he recently made a toast, get to the top.

In order to initiate Topolánek’s downfall, Prague [ODS] candidates for the Senate must be successful. And that is why Václav Klaus headed over to Old Town Square to support them. We will see whether it ends up turning against the candidates. Because Klaus’s conduct could turn away those right-wing voters who are not Klaus fans.

The ODS is facing the toughest situation in its history because its future – maybe even for the next two election terms – is at stake. Like in Slovakia, the right-wing government launched necessary reforms that will (along with other reasons) make it lose its position. The left-wing government will then happily reap the benefits of the reforms, without having to take any unpopular steps itself. This will keep the right wing away from the government helm for years. In Slovakia, Fico is showing us how this can happen.

The ODS is subconsciously aware of this, but rather than engaging in some rational analysis, it’s beginning to panic. In fact, in some regions, local ODS politicians have said they would work with the ČSSD to abolish patient fees. This is how badly they want the seats in regional councils. But by doing this, they are undermining their own government and in a way also their own party.

If the ODS wants to resign itself to becoming a marginal party that will be allowed to take part in governing only if given permission by the ČSSD, they will be left with no alternative but to bring down the current government (today if possible) and start planning early elections.

The idea that Pavel Bém could somehow get the ODS out of this difficult situation is naïve. He may be a popular politician but his public support is just as fragile as the support for Stanislav Gross once was. Bém could be beneficial for the ODS only if he were able to negotiate with the ČSSD some form of government. But it’s highly probable that what might be “beneficial” for the ODS at this moment will not necessarily be good for the country.

This article was translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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