President Klaus to be officially nominated for re-election in 2008

President Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK

President Vaclav Klaus will be officially nominated for re-election in next year's presidential elections. Deputies and senators for the ruling Civic Democratic Party, which Vaclav Klaus founded in 1991, on Wednesday announced they would give him their full backing. However their votes alone will not secure his re-election, which takes place in a joint session of both houses of Parliament, and rival parties on the Czech political scene are now discussing who they can pitch against him.

Ivan Langer, Petr Tluchor, Tomas Julinek, photo: CTK
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Vaclav Klaus founded the Civic Democratic Party and made it a major player on the Czech political scene. Today his relations with the new party leader Mirek Topolanek are frosty but Vaclav Klaus is a strong force in Czech politics. And despite past differences the party closed ranks around him and presented a united front to journalists. Announcing the party's decision to back Mr. Klaus, the chairman of the Civic Democratic Party's deputies' group in Parliament Petr Tluchor said there was no better man for the job.

"The party's deputies and senators clubs voted for Mr. Klaus' candidacy unanimously and I am convinced that all Civic Democrats will support him in the secret vote. Since our votes alone would not suffice we will enter into talks with our coalition partners and do our best to find the support Vaclav Klaus needs to get re-elected."

Securing that support will not be easy. The Green Party has firmly ruled out support for Vaclav Klaus - citing his controversial views on the EU and global warming - while the Christian Democrats are divided on the matter.

President Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK
There is an inclination to choose their own candidate in the first round but political analysts believe that if their candidate in the first round fails the Christian Democrats might be open to supporting Mr. Klaus.

Meanwhile all the other parties have floated a few names of likely candidates - focusing largely on women and academics - because of their need to be acceptable to deputies and senators across the political spectrum. Political analyst Petr Just says he is skeptical that a serious rival to Mr. Klaus will emerge.

"The only real challenge to Vaclav Klaus that would endanger his position would be if all other parties in the lower house and the Senate were to find one common candidate they would be willing to support. I find that next to impossible since it would mean reaching agreement between the Communist Party and parties which are strongly opposed to it."

So the real danger for Vaclav Klaus lies not so much in the strength of his rivals as in possible betrayal from his own party ranks. This was the downfall of his own rival Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman in the 2003 presidential elections which opened the way for Vaclav Klaus to become president.