Bohuslav Svoboda becomes Prague mayor for second time at 79

Bohuslav Svoboda

Prague got a new lord mayor on Thursday, with Bohuslav Svoboda starting his second term as head of the city council. Critics question whether the Civic Democrat, who is 79, will be able to devote all his energies to the role, given his other positions.

Nearly five months after elections in Prague, representatives of the three-party Together alliance, the Pirates and the Mayors inked a coalition deal this week formally established a city government on Thursday.

Together comprises the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats, with the city’s new lord mayor coming from the ranks of the first mentioned.

Bohuslav Svoboda is extremely familiar to Praguers, after a previous stint as head of the city council, from 2010 to 2013.

The Civic Democrat politician turned 79 this month, making him the city’s oldest lord mayor since 1989.

Alongside reservations about his age, some have questioned how Mr. Svoboda will manage to fulfil the role of lord mayor, given the number of other positions he holds.

Bohuslav Svoboda | Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

He has been on the board of administrators of VZP, the country’s biggest health insurance provider, also serves as lower house deputy for the Civic Democrats – and still treats some patients as one of the country’s best-known gynaecologists.

For his part, Bohuslav Svoboda said this week that he would quit his posts at the health insurer and on lower house committees.

“It’s clear what I can step down from directly, so I am leaving the board of administrators of VZP. I was elected to parliamentary committees by my party as an MP, so I will make those positions available at our deputies group.”

That still leaves the incoming lord mayor quite stretched in the eyes of some.

What’s more, other prominent members of the new Prague council are in a similar position.

Jiří Pospíšil | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

TOP 09’s Jiří Pospíšil, who will be a deputy mayor, is stepping down as chairman of the board of directors of Kampa Museum. However, he retains his position as a member of the European Parliament – and says he will donate his Prague salary to an animal shelter.

For her part, Alexandra Udženija of the Civic Democrats will also be a deputy mayor of the capital, while remaining mayor of the Prague 2 district.

Marek Chromý of Transparency International told Czech Television that the politicians’ accumulation of posts would take its toll.

“The position of councillor of any large municipality, and especially of Prague, is very demanding, mentally and physically. I’d describe it as more than a full-time job.”

Getting back to Bohuslav Svoboda, some leading members of the Civic Democrats say the public knew he was an MP when they backed him in the local elections.

Other politicians say voters will be able to make their verdicts clear at the ballot boxes at the next opportunity.