Pehe: Protest leader’s move into politics reflects opposition’s lack of threat to Babiš

Mikuláš Minář, photo: Martina Schneibergová

Remember the demonstrations against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš that drew hundreds of thousands of people in Prague last year? The young leader of the organisers of those protests – Million Moments for Democracy – has just quit, with a view to launching a party that would contest general elections next year. But what chance would Mikuláš Minář really have at the ballot boxes? I discussed his planned move with political scientist Jiri Pehe.

“I think that Mikuláš Minář has come to the conclusion that his appeals to the current Czech opposition parties to unite and beat Andrej Babiš have not succeeded, that despite some signs that the opposition parties could create one or two coalitions they have not really moved in that direction resolutely.

“So he decided to go into politics himself.

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Luboš Vedral / Czech Radio

“Whether he will succeed remains to be seen. But I think that in a way his decision is based on the fact that the current opposition doesn’t seem to pose any big threat to Babiš.”

I presume he’s going to run on a liberal, anti-corruption, anti- Babiš agenda. From which parties is Mikuláš Minář most likely to take votes?

“I think he will probably take votes from the Pirates and TOP 09.

“But I think there are also a lot of voters who have not voted for any of the opposition parties – they are sort of in limbo.

“They have not had any political home in recent years and they have been waiting for some new political party.

“Yes, he will take away some votes from some of the more liberal political parties, but he can also build on civil society.”

Mikuláš Minář is 27 years old and he doesn’t look any older. Does he have what it takes? Does he have the charisma to lead a party into the Chamber of Deputies?

“I would say that he certainly had enough charisma to get 300,000 people onto the streets, repeatedly.

“That’s more people than any of the current parties have.

Andrej Babiš | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“So he certainly seems to have charisma. Whether that charisma, which comes from his activities in civil society, can translate into something that he can used successfully in political life remains to be seen.

“But certainly he seems to be talented and I would not totally exclude the possibility that he will in fact succeed.”

He hasn’t even said formally yet that he is setting up a party. But if you were a betting man, would you bet on him actually getting into the lower house with a party?

“I am not sure at this point if he will make it into the lower house, simply because we don’t know anything about his project.

“At this point we know only about his decision and we need to know what the party will stand for, what programme it will pursue and who the other people in his party will be.

“All of that will determine whether this new movement or this new party will get into the lower house.

“But certainly it has one ingredient which is very important in politics, and that is a potential political leader who has shown that he has charisma and ability to organise political activities.”