Christian Democrat leadership recommends lawmakers vote for Klaus

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

Less than a month before the Czech presidential election, incumbent Václav Klaus has received backing which could see him successfully clinch a second term. The boost came on Monday when the leadership of the Christian Democrats recommended its lawmakers support the incumbent rather than his rival, the US-based economist Jan Švejnar. The decision could tip the balance: if a majority of the party’s lawmakers follow through, their votes – together with those promised by the country’s ruling Civic Democrats – should be enough to secure Mr Klaus a victory.

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK
President Václav Klaus recently admitted that this year’s presidential election would be tougher than that of five years ago, but if he has felt pressure in the race against rival Jan Švejnar (backed by the Greens and the opposition Social Democrats) he can now breathe a little easier. The reason? On Monday the incumbent got backing from the leadership of the Christian Democrats, which recommended their MPs and senators to vote for Mr Klaus come February. If the recommendation is heeded by most, it would probably be enough to tip the scales in Mr Klaus’s favour. But will they? Here’s how political analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková sees the latest development:

“This is quite important because it would probably give him the majority he needs. But on the other hand, we of course can’t be sure just how many Christian Democrats will accept this recommendation. Some have already said they will not back Mr Klaus, but in my opinion, a majority in the party will.”

The numbers could still come down to the wire: at least some Christian Democrats – including the party’s Petr Pithart and Michaela Šojdrová – have made clear they favour challenger Jan Švejnar. So, uncertainty continues on the side of both candidates. That in turn has led to a rise in the “value” of Communist votes which – like the Christian Democrats’ - could also play a decisive role. Analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková again:

“The communists stand a chance of playing an important role in this election and they really want to gain stronger political influence. Mainly, they want to be accepted as a normal political party, that means a party with which it would be possible to form a coalition in the future on the level of the cabinet.”

Jan Švejnar, photo: CTK
So far, neither candidate has wanted to be seen granting the Communist Party – which has not held executive power since 1989 – too much legitimacy. On Monday, Mr Klaus reacted to the most recent of Communist overtures – essentially a promise of support in return for legitimacy - by suggesting that the party represented a thing of the past, while Mr Švejnar made clear the party needed to reform itself and renounce its past before being considered seriously.

That means for now neither candidate in the presidential race has an assured win. Most would agree Mr Klaus, the long-term favourite, is a fair bit closer. But that doesn’t mean there might not be surprises in store yet. The election takes place on February 8.