“Finished” Topolánek gathering support ahead of hotly anticipated party leadership vote

Mirek Topolánek with Pavel Bém, photo: CTK

After a whitewash for the Civic Democrats in regional and Senate elections, Mirek Topolánek’s days as party leader appeared to be numbered. Now, however, as a leadership vote draws ever nearer, it seems that every other day another local Civic Democrats organisation pledges to back the prime minister. So can Mr Topolánek win the toughest battle of his political career and retain the post of party chairman?

Mirek Topolánek with Pavel Bém,  photo: CTK
Following a total drubbing for the Civic Democrats in regional and Senate elections last month, the knives were out for the party’s chairman Mirek Topolánek. The prime minister was widely regarded as on the way out, a political dead man walking.

Now, however, things appear to be looking up for the Civic Democrats chairman. Late on Tuesday night, the party branch in Brno became the latest to give its backing to Mr Topolánek, and in terms of pledges of support from local organisations he is way in front of the only other leadership candidate to date, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém.

Political analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková says the real battle is between Mr Topolánek and the man who founded the Civic Democrats, President Václav Klaus, who is using Mr Bém as a proxy – and their dealings have contributed to the apparent support for the prime minister.

“I think that one of the reasons is that people don’t like such unfair behaviour – Topolánek did a lot for Klaus to be re-elected as president, he really did a lot. And Bém was waiting for a mistake by Topolánek. Everybody knew he had to lose the elections, because he couldn’t win them…

Pavel Bém,  photo: CTK
“I think a lot of people regard the behaviour of Bém and Klaus in this internal fight as unfair towards their own colleague. And maybe this is a reason why people are supporting Topolánek at this moment.”

How much backing Mirek Topolánek really has will become clear in three and a half weeks’ time, when a hotly anticipated leadership vote is held at a Civic Democrats party congress. But right now, says Vladimíra Dvořáková, the prime minister has reasons to be optimistic.

Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
“At this moment I would say he has more chance to win, but you know – anything can happen. And you know what Czech politics is like.

“Although there is support from particular party organisations, we cannot be sure what will be the vote of the delegates in the end, because they are not obliged to vote according to the decision of their [local] conference.

“So it’s difficult to say, but I would say that at this moment Topolánek has a much bigger chance than Bém. I think Bém is losing.”