Civic Democratic Party Congress

Vaclav Klaus was re-elected party chairman

The strongest opposition party, the Civic Democrats held their congress over the weekend. As expected, the former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus was re-elected party chairman with an overwhelming majority and no major changes in the party's program were announced, but the congress did show the party in all its force, rallying around the Czech Republic's most charismatic political figure.

Vaclav Klaus was re-elected party chairman
In a show of confidence Mr Klaus said that, after ten years at the party's helm, he would do the unthinkable and resign should the party fail to win the next election, and he reinforced this impression with a rare acknowledgement of his party's past mistakes. Commentators are interpreting the congress as a powerful first step in the Civic Democrats' campaign for next year's general election, reflecting both the party's experience and unity. So are the ruling Social Democrats shaking in their shoes? Radio Prague's Olga Szantova spoke with professor Erazim Kohak, a university professor and philosopher with close links to the Social Democrats.

"Many of the statements that were made, for instance in the chairman's speech, were so vague, so general that their significance can be estimated only after they have been fleshed out in the process of the actual campaign. Of course they want to take over power, but then the interesting statement is that he wants to transform our democracy in the model of a functioning European democracy. But European democracy is distinctly social democratic. Not only because twelve out of the fifteen member countries of the European Union have a social democratic government, but because there is a tradition of care for the citizen, of providing for common needs, while the policy and philosophy, which he has presented so far for instance in his recent book, seem much more of an old, 19th Century capitalist than European contemporary democratic form."

Mr. Klaus does say that he and his party want to save the country from the tragedy brought about by the Social Democratic government.

Civic Democratic Party  (ODS)
"Oh yes, in a political campaign you accuse your opponent of bringing the country to the brink of disaster and you promise to save it. All the indicators suggest that the Social Democratic government so far has been remarkably successful. It hasn't solved everything, it has its problems, but in contrast with the previous Civic Democratic government I think it has made a significant progress."

The Czech Republic's accession to the European Union was one of the topics in Mr. Klaus's main speech at the congress. He says that his party does not see any alternative, but as opposed to the current government, he would want this country, and he would see to it that this country would join on the basis of equal membership.

"Well, that again seems to me mostly rhetoric, which I can understand as a part of a political campaign, but when I say "well, I see no alternative to it", that is hardly a hearty endorsement of a particular position, But, again, this is the first statement. It is a rhetoric statement opening a political campaign. I will be interested in seeing how it fleshes out."

Author: Olga Szantová
run audio