Civic Democrat chairman on regional tour to drum up support from local leaders

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

The prime minister has begun to take aim at his party’s flagging fortunes which have been on a marked downturn since last year’s regional and senate elections. Prime minister and Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas was in Pardubice on Monday, one stop on his regional tour aimed at boosting support among local leaders.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
In 2014 Czechs will once again go to the polls – this time in parliamentary elections, voting on the make-up of the Chamber of Deputies and the country’s next government. The Civic Democrats, behind TOP 09 on the political right according to a new survey, have realised for some time the situation is less than ideal and that now is the time to act.

On Monday the party’s chairman, Prime Minister Petr Nečas, continued a tour of the country’s regions, stopping in Pardubice, east of Prague, where he aimed to calm increasingly worried local party members and regional organisations and to spark renewed support. The chair of the party aims to present the results of the tour in March ; the hope is that the Civic Democrats can turn their party around and stem the continuing departure of voters. Prime Minister Nečas told Czech TV communication between party members was a top priority.

“It is essential that we communicate with each other and that there is an exchanging of views. [This is not the first such meeting] I have met with regional leaders several times.”

Some changes from the Civic Democrats’ top echelons, say some representatives, have already been introduced, with tangible results. Local mayor Drahomíra Miklošová:

Drahomíra Miklošová,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
“We have gotten more room to express our views even on legislative proposals. I see that as a fresh direction in the party leadership.”

But for others change can’t come soon enough. In January, the party’s Boris Štastný complained the Civic Democrats had done everything in recent months to “drive away core voters” – a situation the prime minister promised to remedy after the Civic Democrats’ last leadership convention. Now there is talk of a party conference set for the autumn to be moved to the end of April, outlining party priorities moving forward and to elect or re-elect the top leadership, excluding its chairman. One of those who would welcome an earlier convention is the mayor of Mladá Boleslav Raduan Nwelati:

“I am calling for an extraordinary party conference that would give an overview of the party’s programme.”

As it stands, party chairman Petr Nečas faces an unenviable task: rejuvenating his Civic Democrats and attracting new or former voters while also juggling a number of outstanding issues in government. Public surveys for months have suggested that the opposition Social Democrats would easily win the national election if it was held today; another defeat for the Civic Democrats would arguably devastate the party and that is something the prime minister will be trying his best to prevent.

Jiří Pospíšil,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
The question is, whether he has enough time. Even now there is speculation over whether a new chairperson might better lead the Civic Democrats out of their crisis: two names being mentioned are current minister for industry and trade, Martin Kuba, and former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil. Mr Pospíšil, however, has indicated that changing the party leader is not the order the day and suggested that party unity iswill be more important in turning the Civic Democrats’ fortunes around.