Parties selecting candidates for 2008 presidential elections

President Vaclav Klaus visiting USA, photo: CTK

After four years in office President Klaus is the most trusted Czech politician. A poll by the SC&C agency suggests that two thirds of Czechs would like to see him re-elected for a second term presidential elections due next year. But it is not the public who will be electing the next president. That is a task for Parliament, which means that there are conflicting political interests involved. So what are Mr. Klaus' chances of getting re-elected?

President Vaclav Klaus visiting USA,  photo: CTK
Mr. Klaus recently announced his decision to run for a second term and if it were up to the Czech people he would have nothing to worry about. However since the president is elected by Parliament his election will inevitably entail a lot of political horse-trading. The question is not whether a given candidate is popular but whether his election will serve the interests of a given political party. The opposition Social Democrats have announced they want to pick a widely-acceptable candidate who could gain votes from several parties. The say they want someone entirely different - younger, less Euro-skeptic, possibly a woman. What they are not saying is that above all they want someone who will serve their interests better that the present head of state, who is after all a Civic Democrat at heart. Political analyst Jiri Pehe.

"The main interest of Czech political parties is to have a president who is somehow associated with those political parties or to be the party which nominated the president. The president is an important player in Czech politics and political parties know that having their candidate in the presidential seat is in a way a great advantage for them."

Mr. Klaus' chances of getting re-elected basically hang on whether the very diverse opposition Social Democrats, Communist Party, part of the governing Christian Democrats and the Green Party can agree on a single candidate. Now these parties find it hard to agree on anything -so what are the chances of their agreeing on a candidate who could seriously challenge Mr. Klaus?

"I think that finding some kind of consensus will be the most difficult task. I think that finding a really good candidate is not such a big problem because there are some good former politicians and other personalities. The problem is that Czech political parties tend to be disunited and tend to pursue their own particular interests and I think it will be very difficult for those parties that don't want Mr. Klaus to get re-elected to agree on a joint candidate.

Vladimir Spidla
My suspicion is that they will not succeed and that Mr. Klaus, who has very solid support from the majority of Civic Democrats, will be in a strong position. He may not get elected in the first and second round but in the end - due to the lack of a strong rival - Mr. Klaus will prevail."

The Social Democrats have so far floated three names - the Czech Euro Commissioner and former Social Democrat prime minister Vladimir Spidla, Marie Benesova, who served as the country's highest state attorney, and the former education minister Petra Buzkova, who has already dismissed the idea. The Christian Democrats have mentioned priest Tomas Halik. Both the Green Party and the Communists are still biding their time though both have voiced readiness to support a widely-acceptable candidate. Unless these parties manage to find someone they can unite around, anyone they put forward independently will stand very little chance against the present head of state.