TOP 09 and Soc Dems reach agreement on Prague City Hall leadership

Tomáš Hudeček, photo: Šárka Ševčíková, ČRo

The opposition Social Democrats in the Prague city council have agreed to support TOP 09’s nominees for top positions at City Hall. On Thursday, the party’s Tomáš Hudeček will become the first mayor of Prague in 22 years not from the Civic Democratic Party. TOP 09 will hold a minority leadership but have been promised tacit support from across the aisle.

Tomáš Hudeček,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
It was baptism by water for Tomáš Hudeček. The recent floods came just days after the Civic Democratic mayor Bohuslav Svoboda was booted out of office, and his young and energetic TOP 09 first deputy was named acting mayor. Although the outgoing Svoboda criticized his successor for a slow response to the flooding, during the two weeks the city was under flood alert, the Olomouc-born geography professor, turned his public image around from being an ambitious upstart to a level-headed and efficient leader.

The floods also helped Hudeček secure the confidence of his own party and of some of the opposition at City Hall. In a close vote, TOP 09 nominated him on Monday as their candidate for mayor and the Social Democrats agreed to support the nomination during the upcoming vote this Thursday.

The Social Democrats also signed a joint document with the TOP 09 council members, called “500 days for Prague”, repeatedly emphasizing that it is not a coalition contract. A TOP 09 councilman, Jiří Vávra, who will most likely be named as one of the two deputy mayors on Thursday, expressed cautious optimism:

“This is not a traditional coalition agreement: it is a document proposing solutions for key problems in Prague. I think both sides are interested in reaching this accord and allow Prague to act responsibly with its budget and fulfill its promises. But we also cannot predict how the city’s budget will develop in the next year, which will of course determine our future decisions.”

Prague City Hall,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The agreement outlines a number of issues which the two parties are willing to work on together, including finishing the construction of the Blanka tunnel and the extension of the A line of the underground by the end of 2014, as well as a promise to keep the costs of public transportation down.

The Social Democrats are calling this a marriage of convenience, underlining their reluctance to join ranks a party from across the political aisle. Nevertheless, for their support of TOP 09’s platform goals, they will now be heading eight out of the 12 council committees.

Tomáš Hudeček, who is partly an outsider in his own party, has already set out concrete goals he wants to meet. Just to name a few, he hopes to improve the transportation infrastructure in the city, and revize the zoning plan – both issues, though, have been among the most problematic at the city hall for years.