Analyst: Prague municipal election will be fight between Civic Democrats and TOP 09

Bohuslav Svoboda, photo: CTK

Weeks after other political parties announced their candidates for Prague mayor in the upcoming municipal elections, the Civic Democrats have finally made public their own choice: sixty-six-year-old Bohuslav Svoboda, a former head of the Czech Medical Chamber. The Prague Civic Democrats are hoping Mr Svoboda – no stranger in the public eye - will help turn their fortunes around after they did poorly in Prague in the national election earlier this year. But, many observers say, they’ll face a tough battle.

A little earlier I spoke to political analyst Jiří Pehe:

“I think that the municipal elections are crucial for the Civic Democratic Party simply because it is a party that has played a key role in municipal politics for many, many years. If it loses its position I think it will be heard within the party at a national level as well. To a degree I think that the municipal election will be the public’s judgment on the Civic Democrats’ ability to continue as the dominant party on the political Right.

“Four years ago it was a different story: then, it was a very good situation for the Civic Democrats - they had an absolute majority and were able to govern without virtually any coalition partners. But that turned into a nightmare because the Civic Democrats, in this dominant position, misused their power on several levels and now I think that voters will hand them a defeat.”

Is it fair to say that was one of the reasons they took so long in choosing their main candidate – long after the other parties announced theirs?

“That it took so long for the Civic Democrats to find a leader for Prague speaks volumes: it appears it is not a party right now that really decent people want to be associated with, whereas their main opponent, TOP 09, had no trouble finding a suitable candidate and credible personality to lead their list of candidates in Prague.”

Bohuslav Svoboda,  photo: CTK
Regarding the candidates, TOP 09 nominated Zdeněk Tůma – the former head of the Czech National Bank; what do you think of the Civic Democrats’ choice of Bohuslav Svoboda, the former head of the Czech Medical Chamber?

Zdeněk Tůma,  photo: CTK
“I think that Mr Svoboda is a decent choice but he doesn’t have the same stature as Mr Tůma. He is a known personality but in a previous foray into politics – a run for the Senate for the former Four Party Coalition – he failed. He didn’t manage to get elected. By contrast, Zdeněk Tůma is someone who enjoys a lot of credibility in Czech society and that will help him - and TOP 09 - in this contest.”

Jiří Dienstbier,  jr.,  photo: CTK
How open, in your view, is the contest at this point? We’ve mentioned two of the candidates but there are also others of course: Markéta Reedová for Public Affairs for example or Jiří Dienstbier, jr. for the Social Democrats… How open is the race?

“If this were another city it would be an open race but Prague traditionally leans towards the political Right. And therefore I think that the main contest will be on that side of the political spectrum, that is, between the Civic Democrats and TOP 09.”