Greens divided over candidate for education minister

Ondrej Liska and Martin Bursik, photo: CTK

It has taken the Green Party almost two months to come up with a candidate for the post of education minister, and yet, the Greens are deeply divided over the issue. It is not the candidate himself, however, that seems to be causing the controversy but rather the way the Green Party leaders are putting their proposals through. This could prove to be the final straw to the integrity of the smallest coalition party.

Ondrej Liska and Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
At the end of September, the Green Party’s Dana Kuchtova stepped down as the education minister after having been heavily criticized over failing to draw on EU funds. Since then, the Greens have been discussing several possible politicians to replace her, and on Monday, the party presidium came up with Ondrej Liska (30) as their chosen candidate. This immediately caused controversy as some critics within the Green Party claim that chairman Martin Bursik does not care about what they have to say. One of these critics is the former education minister Dana Kuchtova herself. She says that the agreement on Mr Liska as candidate for the education minister is no agreement at all.

“I have to say I am sorry that no agreement was reached despite the fact that we all tried very hard to reach one. For me, this is a confirmation of the fact that there are completely different views within the Green Party, and comes as a great disappointment. We will now have to reconsider this decision as well as our future actions.”

The vote in the seven-member Green Party presidium on Monday was very close – four votes for Ondrej Liska and three votes against him. Mr Liska, vice-chairman of the party and an MP, has been chosen for two reasons in particular – he is hoped to be more skilful in dealing with EU funds than his predecessor, and he supports the policies of Martin Bursik.

Ondrek Liska and Olga Zubova,  photo: CTK
“People should not see my nomination as being down to the fact that there were few other candidates running for the post. It should be seen as the Green Party leadership’s response to the most urgent tasks of the ministry – that is, above all, the problem of securing EU funds. This has been causing many problems at the ministry.”

Mr Bursik’s opponents had another candidate in mind – Green MP Olga Zubova. But her chances of being elected to the post diminished greatly after she told the press last week that she might not support the state budged for 2008 prepared by the coalition, of which the Green Party is a member. Critics also claim that Mr Liska’s appointment could lead to an extraordinary congress of the party, which could result in the Greens chosing a new leader. Dana Kuchtova again.

Dana Kuchtova,  photo: CTK
“These practices that involve power; that involve one side putting its proposals forward with power and not wanting to negotiate within the broader leadership of the party, these practices could lead to an extraordinary congress of the party. We have yet to see whether or not we want this to happen. We will talk to other people in the party and gradually analyze the situation.”

These accusations have been rejected by Green Party head Martin Bursik who said the party leadership plays by the book. Mr Bursik will now try to persuade the party’s national council that Mr Liska is the right man for the job. But even if he manages to do so and the row is settled for the time being, Mr Liska’s position will be far from easy. There are other urgent problems to be dealt with by the new education minister – a pending strike by primary and secondary school teachers being just one of them.