Political analyst Šídlo: in next election Civic Democrats face certain defeat

Jiří Pospíšil, Martin Kuba, Miroslava Němcová, photo: CTK

The Civic Democratic Party (or ODS) has been the dominant political party on the centre-right throughout its 22-year history. But over the last few years, its position gradually changed with defeats at the national and regional levels piling up and a corruption scandal hitting the former prime minister in June. With early elections slated for the autumn, can the party stop its freefall? And is there anyone among the Civic Democrats who can turn the party’s fortunes around?

Jiří Pospíšil,  Martin Kuba,  Miroslava Němcová,  photo: CTK
I spoke to journalist and political analyst Jindřich Šídlo and asked him how he saw the situation.

“I think that the Civic Democrats are at the toughest point in their history. The situation is much worse even than 15 years ago when there was a split in the party at the end of the main Václav Klaus era. Their flagging fortunes are not just a problem in 2013 but are something that has continued since 2008. They have been on their way down for quite a few years now. Since then they have lost nine of 10 elections and the number of votes they received in the last national election was also nothing to be happy about, just 20 percent. But they would be more than happy if they got those numbers now.”

Finding a suitable candidate to run the campaign and perhaps lead the party into the future: I imagine that that would be one way to move forward... do the Civic Democrats, in fact, have such a person? A week ago I would have said Miroslava Němcová (the speaker of the lower house) but the situation doesn’t seem clear-cut today...

Bohuslav Svoboda,  photo: CTK
“That’s right, it isn’t. That said, there aren’t many in the party who could serve in that role. The problem is that last year the Civic Democrats chose Martin Kuba as the 1st deputy leader and as acting leader he would have a real problem running in his own constituency in South Bohemia. He would be risking a lot.

“Miroslava Němcová or the former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil or former Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda appear to be among the few who could lead the party ahead of the early elections but that does not necessarily mean either of them would become party leader afterwards. I would argue that the party will have to find a completely new leader, as they did in 2002 when Václav Klaus left the party to run for president.

“I think, however, they will have plenty of time to look for such a leader. In the upcoming elections, I don’t think the Civic Democrats can hope for more than a ‘decent’ defeat. I think they will be happy if they get 15 percent of the vote.”

I imagine that you agree, then, with what other political analysts have been saying: that in order for the party to begin the climb back it first has to suffer defeat. In order to cast off the so-called party godfathers in the shadows pulling the strings, in order to reinvent themselves they first have to lose.

“I agree. But what is important to remember is that the Civic Democrats know very well that they will lose these elections. They were in power for almost seven years (with the exception of one year when they were co-responsible for Fischer’s government). They had to have calculated that they would lose.

Jindřich Šídlo,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“That said, maybe more important and more dangerous for the development of the party will be municipal elections next year when the Civic Democrats are in real danger of losing their positions in Czech cities and towns (after losing Prague in 2010). People in the party I have spoken to told me this has them very worried. As far as elections go, the municipal ones may be even more important than the parliamentary one this autumn.”