Civic Democrats face uncertain future

Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK

What is behind the dismal failure of the right wing parties in last weekend's parliamentary elections and who is to blame for it? Questions debated across the country - to which the public, political observers and politicians themselves have different answers. Vaclav Klaus, the once supremely confident leader of the Civic Democrats, has received almost as much media attention as the winners of the election. Over the past four days, journalists have dogged Mr. Klaus' footsteps asking just one question: Mr. Klaus, when are you going to resign? After repeated refusals to address the issue Mr. Klaus on Wednesday finally made the long awaited announcement. He said he would be offering his resignation at the party's conference in December. But can the Civic Democrats - who are very much a one-man party - survive without him - or is this the end of the road for both the man and the party? Vladimira Dvorakova is a political analyst at the Prague School of Economics.

Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK
"Well, to begin with, even if Mr. Klaus resigns this doesn't mean he will not run for office again and get re-elected. That could really happen. On the other hand, the Civic Democrats have a problem in that they are really a one man party with Vaclav Klaus playing a very important role while the others are almost unknown. There are people who could have risen in the party but because of Mr. Klaus they didn't get a chance. The Civic Democrats now have four years to restructure the party. So if they are able to vote for someone other than Mr. Klaus to be their leader then they will have four years to establish a new image, a new identity and that would greatly benefit the party."

Are you saying that Mr. Klaus should now work very hard on bringing forward a new crown prince, so to speak?

"Yes, in the past Mr. Klaus never let anyone smart , efficient and popular rise within the party. So the so-called crown princes were mostly not people who could compete with Mr. Klaus."

Well, do you think that Mr. Klaus, with his enormous self-confidence is actually able to take a back seat and let someone else come forward?

"Now I think he will lose his tight grip on the reigns and new people will come forward. I think they will find someone who has what it takes."

Why do you think the right wing parties did so badly in these elections?

"Well, first of all I would say that this is part of a normal shift from centre right parties to centre left. I think there will now be a period that will be more left-oriented and maybe in a few years time there will be swing to the right again . I would say this is quite normal in democratic countries. On the other hand, it is true that Mr. Klaus is somehow out of fashion. I have spoken to a lot of young people who in the past strongly supported Mr. Klaus. Four years ago students were very supportive of him. But now with his anti-European attitudes students and young people in general cannot accept his political style."

So Mr. Klaus' hey day is over so to speak and he has also been the main reason for the animosities for instance between the Civic Democrats and the Freedom Union. Do you think that when he goes the right wing parties will be able to cooperate better? "Yes, everyone understands that Mr. Klaus is now a problem for any coalition. The Social Democrats will never form a coalition with Mr. Klaus. Maybe they would be able to form a coalition with the Civic Democrats but not with Mr." Klaus. The Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats did not want to cooperate with Mr. Klaus. So for the Civic Democrats it is now extremely important to change their leadership - because now they have no coalition potential . Because of their leader. Not because of their programme. Not because of their politics, but because of their leader. And I think the party will exert extremely strong pressure on Vaclav Klaus and we can see now that it has started."