Civic Democrats mull over worst defeat in party history

Civic Democrats leader Vaclav Klaus and Ivan Langer, photo: CTK

The leader of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, speaking to reporters on Monday after the party published a report on the recent parliamentary elections. The elections were a disaster for Mr Klaus's party - after months of running neck-and-neck with the ruling Social Democrats, the June poll saw the opposition party score their worst ever election result. And as Rob Cameron reports now, the Civic Democrats have some soul-searching to do.

Civic Democrats leader Vaclav Klaus and Ivan Langer,  photo: CTK
The Civic Democrats emerged from last month's elections with just 58 of the 200 seats in the lower house - their worst result since the party was formed ten years ago. Mr Klaus begrudgingly admitted that the Civic Democrats had been outmanoeuvred by the ruling Social Democrats, but also tried to shift blame on the fractious Czech right. Deputy chairman Ivan Langer was more forthcoming, saying his party's election campaign and the controversial power-sharing pact with the Social Democrats both contributed heavily to the loss.

"There are several reasons from our point of view, and I think that one of them was our pre-election campaign, and especially the end of this campaign. We also paid a very high tax for the so-called Opposition Agreement."

What consequences can be drawn from that report will be decided at the party's national conference in December, when the entire leadership - including Mr Klaus - will offer its resignation. For now though, the Civic Democrats must concentrate on the short-term, with local and Senate elections looming in the autumn. Ivan Langer says much hard work lies ahead for the party over the next two months.

"Well we have to win the elections in the autumn, because we want to support our position in the regions, in the cities and towns in the whole of the Czech Republic. It's a big deal, and we want to be more successful than we were at the general election. And I hope this will be the start of how to change the political situation in the Czech Republic."

The Civic Democrats have been heavily marginalised in the lower house - last week Mr Klaus lost a largely futile attempt to retain his position of lower house speaker. But deputy chairman Ivan Langer says he remains convinced the Civic Democrats do have an important role to play in parliament, as the only right-of-centre party in opposition.

"Our role is to show to the people what's wrong with government policy, and to offer them an alternative. And that's all we can do, with 58 mandates in the Chamber of Deputies."