Ex-minister Fiala to run for Czech Civic Democrat chairmanship

Profesor Petr Fiala vystoupil 7. prosince s přednáškou v pražském CEVRO institutu a oznámil při této příležitosti, že bude kandidovat na předsedu ODS.

published: 07.12.2013, 13:56 | updated: 07.12.2013 13:58:39

Prague - Petr Fiala, former Czech education minister and Brno´s Masaryk University rector, will run for the post of Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman at the ODS´s congress in January, he announced during his lecture in the CEVRO Liberal Conservative Academy today.

Fiala, 49, a political scientist by training, said the ODS, which led the coalition governments in 1992-97 and 2007-June 2013, finds itself in a critical situation where its position in the country´s political system is threatened.

The ODS´s biggest problem is that it has ceased to function as a political party in some respects, Fiala said.

In the past two decades, the mainstream right-wing ODS alternated with the Social Democrats (CSSD) as the most popular party. However, its popularity sharply plummeted under Petr Necas´s (ODS) government (2010-June 2013). It suffered a fiasco in the October early general election, from which emerged with a mere 16 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. It was overtaken and replaced as the Czech right´s leader by TOP 09.

The ODS leadership then decided to resign at the party´s election congress to be held in Prague on January 18-19.

The party has had no regular chairperson since mid-June when Necas stepped down from its helm, and also as PM, over a scandal of his aide.

Candidacy for the top party post was previously announced by ODS deputy chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova. It is not clear, however, whether she would run against Fiala.

The media on Friday wrote, citing sources from the ODS, that Nemcova would withdraw her candidacy and give way to Fiala´s election.

Another ODS politician who was nominated for the party head by an ODS regional branch is MEP Edvard Kozusnik.

Fiala today said the ODS has been paralysed and it must stop its decline. "To manage it,...it must start taking steps towards a qualitative change inside the party," said Fiala, whose speech and announced candidacy met with ovations of the crowded hall.

Professional work across the ODS regional branches must result in uniting the party, which should look united outwards, Fiala said.

He said for a long time the ODS has failed to defend the interests of its traditional electorate, i.e. small tradespeople and entrepreneurs. It is difficult to define whom the ODS actually represents, Fiala said.

In the October elections, the ODS was backed by a mere 13 percent of small tradespeople and entrepreneurs, while the TOP 09 and the new movement ANO were backed by 19 and 27 percent of them, respectively, Fiala pointed out.

"Our election flop was not a consequence of a momentous swing but it reflected a long-lasting erosion of confidence in the ODS´s policy," Fiala warned, adding that the ODS has been declining for a long time, only more sharply now.

He said the reforms sought by the Necas cabinet were pushed through only partly and they raised voters´ apprehensions. The ODS has embarked on the policy of permanent changes, which is more typical of the left wing, he said.

"We forgot that the right wing is reserved towards making permanent changes," Fiala added.

The ODS regional branches have welcomed Fiala´s decision to seek party chairmanship, judging by their first reactions.


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