Green party leader resigns over poor showing in the European elections

Martin Bursík, photo: CTK

The head of the Green Party, Martin Bursík, has resigned from his post over the party’s poor showing in the European elections. The Greens received just over two percent of the vote, a much lower score than they had hoped for. With the second in line now in charge, the party will try for a comeback in October’s early general election.

Martin Bursík,  photo: CTK
The first head rolled in the wake of the European elections as the chair of the Green Party, Martin Bursík, quit his post on Monday over the party’s overwhelming defeat.

The Greens, who have four MPs in the lower house of the Czech Parliament, were hoping to get their first MEP. But they received just over two percent of the vote, a result that has pushed them to the margin of Czech politics.

Last weekend’s European elections are the party’s second defeat in succession under Mr Bursík’s leadership. Last autumn they failed to make their mark in the Senate and regional elections.

Ondřej Liška,  Martin Bursík  (right),  photo: CTK
As the party’s gloomy election results came in on Sunday night, Martin Bursík said he was not going to make any hasty decisions but that he would consider giving up his post. On Monday, he told the party leadership the time had come for him to go.

“The party leader has the main share of responsibility for the party’s results. I was part of the campaign and am ready to bear responsibility for our poor showing. I’m not running away from politics or from my responsibility, but the time has come for me to step aside and give someone else the opportunity to lead the party into the general election.”

Mr Bursík said he would not be running for re-election at the next party conference and would not seek a place on the Green’s ticket in the autumn early general elections. The second-in-command Ondřej Liška will lead the party in his stead. He told Czech TV on Monday what he though was behind the Greens’ election defeat.

“We are well aware of the fact that despite the considerable support we received from respected public figures such as Václav Havel and Karel Schwarzenberg we were not able to get as much public support as we expected. We apparently weren’t able to approach the public in a comprehensible way.”

Photo: CTK
Some commentators were quick to point out that every party Václav Havel ever backed failed – a phenomenon known in Czech politics as Mr Havel’s kiss of death. But a more likely reason for the party’s miserable showing was months of highly-publicized party infighting which resulted in three different Green parties fielding candidates to the European Parliament. Ondřej Liška believes that in the next general election, the Greens do stand a chance if they appeal to those whose votes earned them six seats in Parliament in the last general elections.

“My goal and my ambition in the four and a half months that are left until the election is to win support from those who voted for us in 2006, and also all those who are disappointed with the state of Czech politics and are looking for alternatives.”

Mr. Liška’ own political future at the head of the party depends on whether he manages to unite it and affect a comeback. If he fails, the Greens will be relegated to the fringe of Czech politics after only one term in government.