D.O.S.T. chairman Michal Semín (center) says the group ‘knows’ it has Czech President Václav Klaus' support; Sovereignty’s Jana Bobošíková says she wouldn’t turn it away
At first glance, it seems obvious that the Czech political groupings subscribing to the ideas of President Václav Klaus and taking a critical view towards further European integration should form a coalition to improve their chances of winning seats in the lower house of Parliament in the spring 2014 contest.
But who can unite them? And how? On closer inspection, there appears to be less space for collaboration. The non-parliamentary party Sovereignty (Suverenita) led by Jana Bobošíková, the Party of Free Citizens (SSO), and the ultra-conservative civic association D.O.S.T. are hardly a homogenous bunch.
Czech Position last week published an interview with SSO chairman Petr Mach — the former head of the Center for Economics and Politics (CEP) think tank founded by Klaus in 1998 after he stepped down as prime minister — that caused a bit of a stir among these non-parliamentary hopefuls.
Mach said Bobošíková’s Sovereignty is a competitor not for his party but for the upstart parties on the left founded by Miloš Zeman and Jiří Paroubek, both former Social Democrat (ČSSD) prime ministers. As for D.O.S.T. (which stands for “Trust, Objectivity, Freedom and Tradition” and whose acronym means “enough”), he said past collaboration had proved disappointing. He also cast doubt on Klaus’ support for them.
The casual observor could take from this that a battle is underway to win the support of the Czech president, whose second and final term as head of state ends in March 2013, in the next parliamentary elections. What do Bobošíková and D.O.S.T. chairman Michal Semín have to say?
D.O.S.T. as a ‘bridge’
D.O.S.T. was thrust into the public eye on a wider scale in December thanks to the divisive figure Ladislav Bátora, the association’s co-chairman before Semín took over the reins. Bátora was pushed to resign as personnel chief at the Minister of Education due to human rights groups’ objections to his past flirtations with Czech fascist groups spouting xenophobic and racist ideologies — and for insulting the chairman of the center-right party TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, the current foreign minister.
The civic association appeals to right-wing conservatives intent on protecting Czech “national interests” and opposed to trends towards further integration in the European Union — as well as the influx of immigrants. Whatever Mach may believe, Semín appears confident the Czech head of state will stand behind them once he can freely do so. ‘[It] is futile to bicker over who he supports more. It’s like small boys arguing over who can piss further.’
“We don’t want to row with anyone for the support of President Klaus; however, we know for certain that we will have his support,” Semín told Czech Position, stressing that D.O.S.T.’s manifesto is in line with Klaus’ positions. “I hope that Petr Mach’s project is successful and that he gets the support of Václav Klaus. But it is futile to bicker over who he supports more. It’s like small boys arguing over who can piss further.”
According to Semín, D.O.S.T. doesn’t plan to participate in the parliamentary elections — but it will try to act as a bridge for conservative right-wing entities that are “ideologically close” to its manifesto. He says political success would be easier to achieve together while retaining their individuality and diversity of opinions. One opinion the civic association strongly holds is that further European integration must be stopped.
“It a question of further centralization of power in EU institutions, a return to greater sovereignty of the member states, or event the disappearance of the European Union in the form that we know it,” Semín said. “Parties like Sovereignty, the Conservatives (KS), the SSO and Law and Justice (PS) have similar views in this respect. We consider it important that these groups seek some form of cooperation that leads to promoting our common positions on the Czech political scene.”
Such cooperation could already manifest itself in this year’s Senate elections, he said, with D.O.S.T. planning to lead negotiations with like-minded groups to support some candidates while in some regions they may compete against each other. One such candidate the right-wing parties could rally to support is Sen. Petr Pakosta from the Náchod region, who recently left the Civic Democrats (ODS), the party of which Prime Minister Petr Nečas is chairman.
Who will replace Klaus – and where will he go?
Semín also says that D.O.S.T. is ready to support SSO’s candidate to succeed Klaus at Prague Castle, adding that the presidential campaign is a way for the party to promote its platform. “However, Jana Bobošíková is also a candidate. To be honest, we have yet to resolve this and Ms. Bobošíková has not yet asked for our support,” he said.
D.O.S.T. could support other candidates as well. “If Jiří Karas, the former Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL) politician who is now a diplomat in Minsk, decides to go against the party’s wishes and run, he would be an interesting candidate for a majority of people from around D.O.S.T. circles,” he said; the KDU-ČSL’s official candidate is MEP Zuzana Roithová.
In any case, Semín says he would like to see Klaus remain in politics after leaving Prague Castle.
“It doesn’t matter how — whether through a think tank or a return to party politics. Personally, I would very much like, without wanting to advise the president, that he create from his initiatives a cross-party platform for like-minded political parties and movements, critical of the present form of European integration,” he said.