Will Jan Svejnar be real "anti-Klaus"?

Jan Svejnar, photo: CTK

Three months before presidential elections, Czech-born economist and University of Michigan professor Jan Svejnar has emerged as a new candidate who may have what it takes to beat incumbent Vaclav Klaus. Jan Svejnar has so far gained the support of the strongest opposition party the Social Democrats and the Greens. During a visit to Prague this week, Mr Svejnar will try to win the support of the Communist Party, which could be key to the elections.

Jan Svejnar,  photo: CTK
The search for what is being called an "anti-Klaus" for the coming presidential elections might be soon over. The Social Democrats announced that they would support Jan Svejnar as a possible candidate to run against current president Vaclav Klaus, on condition he is acceptable to other political parties. Then the Green Party, together with two smaller Senators' groups, said that Mr Svejnar has their support as well. The Social Democrats' decision came as something of a surprise, as Jan Svejnar is known for liberal views that do not exactly coincide with those of the centre-left party. Social Democrat MP Jan Hamacek explains that the major opposition party is simply choosing the lesser of two evils.

Jan Hamacek
"We believe that if we are to find a candidate against the current president, the candidate should stand a real chance. I firmly believe that Mr Svejnar is the one that does stand a chance. If you compare his vies to the views of the current president, I think he is in a way closer to us than Mr Klaus."

As Civic Democrats stand firmly behind their honorary chairman Vaclav Klaus in the coming election, Mr Svejnar's mission to Prague this week will consist of trying to win the support of MPs and Senators of the two remaining parties - the Christian Democrats and the Communists .And it is very difficult to see the latter raising their hands for Jan Svejnar. Communist MP Vaclav Exner says there are a number of issues his colleagues will want to hear about.

"It is the problem of the fiscal reform in our country; it is the issue of the US radar base in the Czech Republic as well as social problems, and other such issues. I believe professor Svejnar is very liberal, and I don't think this would be a very positive feature for our party."

Jan Svejnar will meet the Communist MPs on Tuesday. If he does succeed in securing their support, he will have a good chance of proceeding into the second round of the presidential election in March. But as Prague-based journalist and commentator Erik Best says, for the Communists a bird in the hand could well be more than two in the bush.

"I think it would be very difficult for the Communists to support him. Politics is a bit of a give and take and with Mr Klaus you know what you get if you give while with Mr Svejnar there is always going to be some doubt."

Talks with the Communist MPs on Tuesday will determine the fate Jan Svejnar will be the real "anti-Klaus" or whether the search for a candidate to face Vaclav Klaus will have to continue.