Paroubek searches for replacement for Martin Jahn

Deputy prime minister Martin Jahn, photo: CTK

Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek continues to search for a replacement for outgoing deputy prime minister Martin Jahn, who announced his departure from politics on Monday. Prime Minister Paroubek wanted the popular, unaffiliated Mr Jahn to stand in Prague at next year's general election. One name being bandied about is that of Pavel Telicka, the former EU commissioner.

Deputy prime minister Martin Jahn,  photo: CTK
Mr Paroubek has his work cut out. The Czech Republic goes to the polls next June, and the prime minister must find someone to lead the Social Democrats into battle in Prague, traditionally a bastion of the right. Mr Jahn was an ideal candidate - young, capable, popular, photogenic and economically liberal. But Mr Jahn is reportedly unhappy with the prime minister's cosying up to the Communists, and is leaving politics to relaunch his professional career.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek
Now Mr Paroubek must look elsewhere. The prime minister confirmed on Monday that he was in talks with Pavel Telicka, formerly the country's EU commissioner. In 2004, after just a few months as commissioner, Mr Telicka was unceremoniously shoved aside to find a job for former prime minister Vladimir Spidla. But he's still remembered for his diligence in preparing the country for EU membership and respected for his expertise in EU affairs. Mr Telicka currently heads his own private consultancy firm, with offices in Prague and Brussels.

But whether he actually wants the job of deputy prime minister is another matter. His ejection from the EU commissioner's post last year can't have endeared him to the Social Democrats. Analysts are asking whether he really wants to serve as window-dressing for a party desperate to attract young, economically liberal and urban voters. His pre-1989 membership of the Communist Party is also anathema to the coalition Christian Democrats. Pavel Telicka may decide private consultancy in Brussels is a more fulfilling, and more fruitful career than the rough and tumble of politics.