No surprises at Civic Democrat 10th birthday party


Members of Vaclav Klaus’s Civic Democrats (ODS) met in Prague over the weekend to celebrate their tenth birthday. Sipping champagne in the turn-of-the-centre splendour of the Zofin ballroom, delegates were mulling over the successes and failures of the past decade, as well as looking in the their crystal balls for a glimpse of what the future has in store. My colleague Rob Cameron joins me in the studio now – presumably the delegates had a lot to look back on Rob?

Rob Cameron: Well, the Civic Democrats have certainly had an interesting ten years – they spent most of the 1990s as a senior partner in a centre-right coalition. Then came 1997 and the spectacular collapse of the Klaus government over a funding scandal in his party. They narrowly lost the 1998 early elections to Milos Zeman’s Social Democrats, and ended up signing a power-sharing deal called the Opposition Agreement to keep the minority Social Democrat cabinet in power.

Radio Prague's Ita Dungan: So they certainly had a lot to talk about. Did anything controversial come out of the weekend’s congress?

RC: Well, not really. There was a minor ripple caused by Civic Democrat deputy chairman, Petr Necas, who said there was a real division inside the party over the Opposition Agreement. Unfortunately I was unable to contact Mr Necas, but I did speak to his party colleague Miroslav Macek:

Miroslav Macek: I think that Petr Necas’s attitude to the Opposition Agreement is a minority attitude in the ODS, and it is especially his personal attitude, and so of course it is over-focused in his speech. You know the next elections will be in a year, and there is no other possibility than to keep the [existing] political situation [the same] until the elections.

RC: Party leader Vaclav Klaus promised that the Civic Democrats would win the elections in 2002. If they do, which do you think is more likely? - a coalition with the Social Democrats, or a coalition with the right-of-centre parties in the Four-Party Coalition?

MM:: After the elections we would like a coalition with right-wing parties of course, but everything depends on the results of the elections, it depends on the voters. It’s very difficult to say now what the result will be.

RC: Some people say that the Civic Democrats ARE Vaclav Klaus, that they one and the same: Vaclav Klaus is the ODS, and the ODS is Vaclav Klaus. Is that something you would agree with?

MM:: Yes and no. Of course Vaclav Klaus is a very strong party leader, a very long-time party leader, but we have a lot of politicians on the district level, on the regional level, so I think the network of ODS men in the regions is very strong and of course it is a base for future leaders.