Political analyst Jiří Pehe: The Czech Christian Democrats should look abroad for inspiration

Pavel Bělobrádek, photo: CTK

The junior party in the Czech governing coalition, the Christian Democrats, held a party conference over the weekend re-electing an old-new leadership and outlining plans for the future. Leader Pavel Bělobrádek, who was re-elected by 91 percent of vote, stressed the need for the party to push ahead with its policy goals and to broaden its scope to attract new voters. Discussing the outcome of the conference with political analyst Jiří Pehe I asked him about Pavel Bělobrádek’s unshakeable position at the head of the party.

Pavel Bělobrádek,  photo: CTK
“Pavel Bělobrádek was elected (party leader) because he was the only candidate. Other candidates for the top post recognized his qualities and they did not really want to complicate things. I think that he has really managed to lead the party – I do not want to say out of isolation - but out of its position outside of the lower house and mainstream politics. He has managed to stabilize the party, consolidate it and that was the reason why –in my opinion – he easily won at the party congress.”

How is the junior party faring in the coalition? Have the Christian Democrats been able to implement some of their policy priorities? Are they strong enough to push things through?

“Well, I think that the Christian Democrats know that they have to have a list of priorities. It is clear that if they try to push on issue which are not their priority they would be causing conflicts within the government coalition that we saw in the previous governments with regard to the smallest parties in the coalition and that would not be productive. So I think that they are doing their best to choose their priorities carefully and when it comes to –for example –restitution of church property or other things that are really high on their agenda I think that their voice is heard in the coalition.”

The party has said it wants to attract new voters and present itself as a party that is not just for believers, for Christians, it has a strong pro-family policy –can it potentially win over more voters?

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
“Well, I think that the Christian Democrats need to follow in the footsteps of some other successful Christian Democratic parties in Europe. Of course, the Czech Rrepublic is not entirely in the same position as Germany, Spain or Austria where the Catholic Church is very strong, but at the same time I think they have a potential to expand their electorate especially in big cities if they get inspired by the policies and programs of those big Christian Democratic Parties in Western Europe. They need above all to diminish the impression that they are very closely tied with the Catholic Church. They certainly cannot abandon their Christian values because that is part of their identity but at the same time they should not really be seen as a clerical party. If they are able to do that and if they address the young generation in big cities then I think they may actually become – perhaps not the strongest party in the Czech Republic – but certainly stronger than they are now.”