Bárta to run for post of Public Affairs leader

Vít Bárta, foto: ČTK

Until recently, the country’s Transport Minister Vít Bárta delayed whether or not to run for leader of Public Affairs, the party he helped found which won surprising success in the last election. After a final consideration of options over the weekend, Mr Bárta confirmed his candidacy, meaning party members will choose between him and current leader Radek John and possibly others. In the end, Mr Bárta’s decision is not a major surprise: in recent months the successful former businessman has been seen more and more as the real mover behind Public Affairs, even as Radek John as interior minister has suffered a marked drop in public popularity.

Vít Bárta and Radek John, photo: CTK
What direction would Mr Bárta lead the party in if he is named chairman? For one, he has made clear he wants Public Affairs (who benefitted in the last election largely from protest votes) to be a more liberal, centrist party and he indicated as chairman he would put greater emphasis on regional politics, policies and organisational restructuring. There are other differences in leadership between Mssrs. Bárta and John as well, says political analyst Jan Bureš:

“I think in comparison to Radek John, Vít Bárta wants the party to be seen more as a co-creator of reforms and he generally sees the party’s proper place as within the centre-right government, even if on the surface the party is supposed to be more centrist. By contrast, Radek John is more abrasive towards coalition partners and I think if he loses his race for chairman it will be because he causes more conflict within the coalition. Vít Bárta, generally wants Public Affairs to be able to push through essential changes and reforms, and to once in a while accent social policies that brought them popularity in the last election and eventually brought them to power.”

Kateřina Klasnová, photo: CTK
Interestingly, while supported by his wife and fellow Public Affairs deputy leader Kateřina Klasnová in his bid, Vít Bárta will not be able to rely on her vote: she has indicated she will continue to support Mr John given how he, as a former TV journalist, helped bring the party out of obscurity. For his part, Mr Bárta said he envisioned Mr John being named the party’s honorary chairman, complete with the power to veto in the top party leadership; but Mr John, having announced his own candidacy for re-election weeks ago, is unlikely to be giving such a scenario much thought just now.

In the end, the two current candidates may also not the only ones vying for top spot: another high-standing member, Karolína Peake, is reportedly also weighing whether or not to put her name forward. Nominations will close at the end of the month, while Public Affairs members – based on the party’s policy – will elect the next chairman via the internet between May 8 and 22. Not all are convinced such a method of voting is the best for any serious political party, but that is how, at least for now, Public Affairs wants things done. Political analyst Jan Bureš again: