First ‘candidates’ mull presidential bids

Jan Švejnar, photo: Anna Duchková

Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar, businessman (and music industry legend) Michal Horáček and others have let themselves be heard they are considering running in the Czech presidential election in 2018. For the moment, only one person (a little-known businessman by the name of Igor Sládek) has unequivocally announced his intent. Others are still weighing their options before they declare.

Michal Horáček,  photo: Alžběta Švarcová
In 2018, Czechs will directly choose, for only the second time in their country’s history, their president, either Miloš Zeman for a second term or someone new. The president has said he will only announce his intention of whether or not to run next year, but potential challengers will likely have to have made up their minds long before then, given the substantial resources election campaigns require. Economist Jan Švejnar and lyricist Michal Horáček both told the press in separate interviews recently they were weighing their options but neither has taken a final decision yet. Michal Horáček said this on Czech Radio:

“Today, I think I should take the step. It depends on public support but it is also a question whether there is another interesting candidate, whose opinions I share, who would have a better chance.”

Speaking to Lidové noviny, economist Jan Švejnar suggested if he ran it would be because – in his view – the current president was continuing to push policies which were damaging to the country and pushing the country east. But many op-eds and blogs in reaction were skeptical such a tentative or wait-and-see approach is the right way to launch a presidential bid; they argued potential candidates would do better to commit properly. At the very least, presidential hopefuls will need time to gather 50,000 signatures from members of the public or the backing of some 20 MPs or 10 senators just to run; building up far broader support and a platform for a serious bid will require much more of an effort. Political analyst Jiří Pehe suggests that those weighing presidential runs should be ready to go all-in.

Jan Švejnar,  photo: Anna Duchková
“I think that many potential candidates have not understood that the direct election of the president is really very different and changes the ways candidates should ‘declare’. I personally think that telling the public that ‘I may run if another person runs or if the president takes the country too far east’’ is not really the right way to go about it.

“I think the public wants a candidate who really wants the job, explains ‘why’ it should be them, and should build a good team and good electoral campaign.”

There is time yet of course to potentially launch a successful bid but not as much as one might think. Jiří Pehe again:

“It seems to me that this is hugely underestimated: some, like Mr Horáček, who has the money and resources, can perhaps still afford to wait. But others, if they do not happen to be millionaires or billionaires, need to begin early: by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, at the latest.”