ČSSD senator Jiří Dienstbier – the people’s choice for president?
Senator Jiří Dienstbier, Jr. (Social Democrats, ČSSD) has topped the list of most popular Czech politician since September, with more than half of those polled saying they have a “somewhat” or “very” favorable opinion of him — which bodes well for his likely bid for the presidency next spring, when the first direct elections to choose a head of state are held.
The latest public opinion poll by the STEM agency found that 39 percent of respondents had a negative opinion of Dienstbier, with 10 percent saying they didn’t know who he was. He bested his own party chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka — who is a good bet to be the next prime minister — by a slim margin (the latter had a 44 percent favorable rating).
Others scoring high marks among the voting age Czech public were the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Miroslava Němcová (Civic Democrats, ODS), with a 43 percent favorable rating, and Michal Hašek (ČSSD), a regional governor who had contested the leadership of his center-left party but lost to Sobotka.
The poll was conducted from May 12 to May 21. STEM said there had been little significant change in the measure of politicians’ respective popularity in recent surveys. “Opposition politicians generally lost a little ground, but some members of the [center-right coalition] government also recorded a slight decline,” the polling agency said.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (ODS) had a 40 percent favorable ranking, the same as former supreme state prosecutor Marie Benešová (ČSSD). At the bottom of the rankings was Vít Bárta, the founder and paymaster of the Public Affairs (VV) party who was convicted of attempting to bribe fellow party MPs but given a suspended sentence.
Among those with the dubious honor of high scores in the “unknown” category were Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba (ODS) and Culture Minister Alena Hanáková (TOP 09-STAN) — both relatively new Cabinet members, whose names rang no bells with half the respondents — and Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa (ODS), a former Prague district mayor, whom 43 percent said they had not heard of.
Long road to Prague Castle
Although Dienstbier is doing well in the popularity polls, he still appears to be a dark horse in the presidential contest.
A recent show that Jan Fischer (unaffiliated), who served as prime minister in a caretaker government, would still win by a comfortable margin with 24.4 percent of the vote compared to 17.8 for Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar and 12 percent for Miloš Zeman, the former ČSSD prime minister.
The same poll had Dienstbier a distant fourth, with 5.3 percent of respondents saying he was their first choice as Czech head of state.