Christian Democrats seek salvation with Svoboda
The traditional kingmakers of Czech politics – the Christian Democrats – held a closely observed national congress at the weekend. The main event was the election of a new leader, with former foreign minister Cyril Svoboda replacing the scandal besmirched Jiří Čunek. The change has sparked analysis of what Svoboda can do for the troubled party.
The weekend vote was an even greater defeat for Jiří Čunek – the man most blamed for getting the party to this point – than had been expected. Professor of politics at Prague’s University of Economics Vladimíra Dvořáková believes the damaging Čunek chapter is now closed.
“The party I think clearly gave the message that it does not want to continue with the leadership of Mr Čunek who lost very much.”
She says he still might be a regional force in his home region but he is now ended as a national politician.
As the new leader, Mr Svoboda is likely to feel the impact of the party’s low ratings with a poor showing in next weekend’s European elections. He may also face further desertions to a new right of centre party in the process of being created by former Christian Democrat leader and finance minister Miroslav Kalousek.
Most of the Czech press has interpreted Mr Svoboda’s election as increasing the chances of a coalition between it and the left wing Social Democrats following October’s elections. But Professor Dvořáková believes the final election figures rather than Mr Svoboda’s favouring of a strong social policy will determine if the party lines up with the Civic Democrats or Social Democrats.
“I think that with the leadership of Svoboda both parties are acceptable. You know, Svoboda was minister in a right wing party and was minister in a left-wing party, that means he collaborated with the cabinet of [Mirek] Topolánek and being foreign minister in a Social Democrat cabinet. So I do not think that is a big problem”
While she believes the Christian Democrats will make it back into parliament in October, they might well find they are no longer the kingmakers but just part of the court.