Analyst: Klaus Jr. may be “most trusted” politician but he is highly polarising figure

Václav Klaus Jr., photo: Jana Přinosilová / Czech Radio

Václav Klaus Jr., the son of former Czech president and prime minister Václav Klaus, is the country’s “most trusted” politician, suggests a new poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The leader of the newly-formed, right-wing oriented Tricolour achieved a 42 percent positive rating among respondents, putting him ahead of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. I asked political scientist Jiří Pehe why exactly Klaus Jr. is so popular.

Václav Klaus Jr.,  photo: Jana Přinosilová / Czech Radio
“I think that Václav Klaus Jr. is for many a new face in Czech politics, at least for many voters.

“From time to time in in the local political scene we see someone who appears to capture the public mood so to speak and, because Mr. Klaus Jr. has portrayed himself in his blogs and articles [until recently he had a regular column on the country’s most popular news website] as a fighter with a lot of social and political ills, that has contributed to his political position.

“However, we should not forget that while he came out as most popular in the poll with 42 percent, the same poll also showed that he is a highly polarising figure with 44 percent of respondents saying they saw him in a negative light. Therefore, I would not overestimate his popularity.”

Indeed, it should be noted that this is just one poll. His new party has also not yet been elected to the lower house of the Czech Parliament, although he himself is currently a member of the Chamber of Deputies, having been elected in 2017 for the Civic Democrats. Is he perhaps benefiting from the fact that he is not in the daily clashes of party politics, unlike the leaders of other parties such as Tomio Okamura, whose Freedom and Direct Democracy Party has been identified as Tricolour’s main opponent?

Tomio Okamura,  photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
“Well I think that once he starts doing party politics, that means that his party will start proposing various goals and objectives, his popularity will probably not stay at the current level.

“Right now he is perceived by the public as Václav Klaus Jr. the person, but once he gets his hands into party politics, he will not stay where he is.

“I would also argue that this phenomenon of politicians who become temporarily very popular is not entirely connected to the popularity of their parties.

“We have seen it with Tomio Okamura, who for a period of time was the most popular politician in the country. However, his popularity did not translate into a rise of support for his party which largely remained polling at 10 percent. So his personal popularity has not translated into the popularity of his party project.”

One area where individual popularity can be beneficial, I imagine, are the presidential elections, where people vote for a single candidate. Some people believe that Mr. Klaus Jr. could run for president in the future. Do you believe he would have a chance if he did so?

“My personal feeling is that Mr. Klaus Jr. would not succeed in the presidential election.

“He is a highly polarising figure who would probably get the vote of a certain component of Czech society, but the other would be clearly opposed to him.

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Luboš Vedral / Czech Radio
“I believe that to become Czech president you really need to get a few percent somewhere in the middle and Mr. Klaus Jr. is not a politician who could do that.”

Is there anything else in this poll that particularly struck you?

“Speaking of that poll, I think that the question is always a bit tricky, because it asks people whom they like and dislike. Usually however, we only learn of the plus ratings in the media, not about their negative ratings.

"These can actually be more important sometimes, because if a politician has positive ratings between 30 to 40 percent, but at the same time has a negative rating of over 50 percent it can tell you more about who is the country’s most popular politician.”