Michal Horáček seeks to be a hit in Czech presidential contest

Michal Horáček, photo: CTK

Presidential elections – the Czech not the US – are beginning to warm up although they are still just over a year away. This week multi-millionaire betting company founder and lyricist Michal Horáček joined the still small field of declared runners with what he claims will be a radically different campaign.

Michal Horáček,  photo: CTK
Lyricist Michal Horáček on Thursday after some fence sitting and considerable speculation, he found the words to declare his candidacy for Czech presidential elections which should be staged at the start of 2018.

While not attacking the current incumbent, president Miloš Zeman, directly, Horáček did say that he believed the job could be done in a more competent and less conflictual way. He underlined he would be a non-party candidate, paying for his campaign himself from an open and transparent bank account without being beholden to rich corporate sponsors or other backers.

Horáček added that part of his inspiration stems from neighbouring Slovakia and the presidency of self-made businessman Andrej Kiska. Against all initial expectations, Kiska in 2014 became the focus for many of those disgusted with the main parties and beat the then, and current, left-wing Slovak prime minister Robert Fico.

Horáček has set out nine top areas where he believes the next president should take a lead, top of that agenda is the Czech Republic’s place in the world. He told Czech Television that he will put the onus on the country’s role and membership of the European Union and NATO:

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“I feel that very often some of our politicians give the impression that they are putting a higher emphasis on the interests of those who are not our allies over those who are our allies and for whom we are allies.”

Those comments can probably be taken as an attack on president Zeman’s cosy relations with China and Russia and sporadically critical attacks on the EU and United States.

Horáček is not totally new to the political scene. Together with Czech rock star Michal Kocáb, he helped found the so-called Most, or bridge, initiative in 1989 which played a key role as an intermediary during the so-called Velvet Revolution between the communists in power and the Civic Forum grouping focused on Václav Havel. But he afterwards shunned political activity, never joined a party, and together with three partners founded the betting coming Fortuna. Horáček sold up his stake in the company in 2004 for a sum rumoured to exceed 100 million crowns.

Horáček is perhaps the highest profile Czech to have declared for the 2018 presidential race, but he is not alone. Businessman Igor Sládek was first out of the gates, so to speak, when he took out ads in national dailies on June 2. The Czech born businessman later emigrated in the 1980s to Germany and later to the US. He says he lives half and half in the US and his homeland.

Igor Sládek,  photo: Czech Television
He is not to be mixed up with Miroslav Sládek, the right-wing Republican Party politician, former member of the Czech parliament and candidate for president when voters were just members of parliament, who has said he will run as well. And there is 40-year-old activist and brain tumor specialist Marek Hilšer who declared in August. He has attacked the current president’s foreign policy support of Russia and China.

All the major parties are currently weighing their options. President Zeman says he will announce whether he will stand again in March. Meanwhile, new election rules seeking to tighten up on the collection of the 50,000 signatures needed to run are being prepared.