Tosenovsky first to stand against Klaus for ODS leadership

Evzen Tosenovsky, photo: CTK

Since the foundation of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), its fate has been closely connected with its 61-year-old leader, Vaclav Klaus. After the party were left out in the cold after June's elections, some commentators said it was time for Mr Klaus (who was twice prime minister) to stand aside. He refused to do so, saying the party's future would be discussed at a conference in December. At the weekend, Evzen Tosenovsky became the first senior Civic Democrat to say he would stand against Mr Klaus. But who is Evzen Tosenovksy?

Evzen Tosenovsky,  photo: CTK
He's from Ostrava in north Moravia, and was elected mayor of the city three times in a row. Since the foundation of the new regions at the beginning of 2001, Mr Tosenovsky has been the hejtman, or governor, of the Moravia and Silesia region. He's well-respected both within the region and the party; indeed the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes said on Tuesday that if the Civic Democrats held a vote for party leader tomorrow, Mr Tosenovsky - who is 46 - would win it. He is a very big man, and certainly looks like a statesman. Earlier, I asked Evzen Tosenovksy why he had decided to announce his candidature.

"At a time like this you can't just stand to the side, because the right in the Czech Republic needs to get its breath back. After the elections, in which our party was defeated, you could say it's a bit lost. People don't know how to orient themselves. And with the local and Senate elections coming up I think it's time to wake people up a bit and to make the Civic Democrats a strong party again. It's extremely important for us to get over the failure of the elections, and to wake up again."

Evzen Tosenovsky is from north Moravia, while the Civic Democrats are sometimes seen as being very much a Prague-centred party; isn't that a disadvantage for Mr Tosenovsky in his bid to become party leader?

"On one hand it definitely is a disadvantage, definitely. It's not just a technical question of being a long distance from Prague and other centres. On the other hand it's an advantage in a way. You see things a bit differently, not just from the Prague point of view. It could be a good thing, though all things considered it is a definite handicap."

To find out how Mr Tosenovsky is regarded in his region, I spoke to the journalist Zuzana Smidova, who is from Ostrava.

"He's very respected for what he has done for the city of Ostrava. After all, he was re-elected as mayor twice, and then he was the obvious candidate for hejtman, the head of the region. He's done a lot. The city works fine now, the administration works smoothly and he's been very active in establishing the regions."

Is he able to work with other parties well in the (Moravia and Silesia) region?

"He is. I've never come across any crisis or anything that wouldn't get approval because there was a major party split. I think he's a man of compromises, he definitely works well with other parties and with other politicians. He knows that politics is about compromises, and that's why he's been in office for so long...he knows how to compromise and to come to a consensus on things. In that respect he's a great politician. I don't think that he is a man who would unite a split party; I think that has to come from within the party itself, the party itself has to accept him. After all, he's from Ostrava and people from Prague don't regard Ostrava as such an important place. Somehow I don't see them having him as a leader and respecting him as much as Klaus."