“I don’t understand their motivations”: Why are 21 people aspiring to presidency?

Petr Pavel, Andrej Babiš and Danuše Nerudová

No fewer than 21 people applied to stand in Czech presidential elections before Tuesday’s deadline for registration, though many may be disqualified. Meanwhile polls suggest Danuše Nerudová is catching up on frontrunners Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš.

The steps of the Ministry of the Interior in Prague were busy on Tuesday, as film crews and photographers followed aspirants for the presidency registering at the last minute.

Among those who left it to deadline day were national union leader Josef Středula and entrepreneurs Karel Janeček and Karel Diviš.

There are no fewer than 21 would-be candidates. Some of them are scarcely known and have virtually zero chance of being elected in the two-round system.

Otto Eibl | Photo: Masaryk University Brno

So why are they running? That’s a question I put to Otto Eibl of Masaryk University, an expert on political marketing.

“I don’t understand their motivations, to be honest. They are going to spend a tremendous amount of money, just because they want to be seen or to be heard in the public sphere, and that could be enough for some of them.

“But we live in a democracy and it is their right to run for president, so they are using this right.

“And there might be a good motivation – if they are thinking about a political career, they could have started thinking about being elected to the Senate.

“Because we saw in the past that unsuccessful presidential candidates were successful in the Senate elections.”

Qualification to stand depends on either having the backing of a number of legislators or gathering 50,000 signatures.

Most of the aspirants have gone the second route, typically collecting many thousands more signatures, in case some are rejected by the Ministry of the Interior.

However, many may well be disqualified when officials announce on November 26 which applicants have made the grade. Last time fewer than half got through.

Eibl says that for the main candidates nothing has changed with Tuesday’s cut-off.

“I believe that the campaign will be full of emotions, like all campaigns in the past.

“And the most important thing is who will get into the second round with Andrej Babiš, probably.”

Electoral model of the presidential election: first round,  October 2022 | Photo: Median/ČT24

For some time the polls have made ex-PM Babiš and former army man Petr Pavel the frontrunners.

However – though surveys still place her third – there has evidently been a recent surge in support for economist Danuše Nerudová.

Eibl says her apparent rise may be unsettling to the two perceived leaders.

“Danuše Nerudová has momentum right now. She is going up in the polls. Many people and journalists have started talking about her.

“In some ways she reminds at least some people of the Slovak president, Čaputová, and many people in the Czech Republic like Čaputová.

“So they believe, or they think, if they support Danuše Nerudová the result could be similar to the Slovak situation.”

The presidential elections are due to get underway in mid-January.

Prague Castle - residence of the Czech President | Photo: Pixabay,  Public Domain
Author: Ian Willoughby
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