Petr Bendl (right), the new Czech Minister of Agriculture
Petr Bendl was officially inaugurated as Minister of Agriculture by Czech President Václav Klaus at the Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon. He replaces Ivan Fuksa who Prime Minister Petr Nečas fired on Tuesday, saying he was dissatisfied with his performance. Fuksa and practically all observers have said the decision was political and linked to Fuksa’s alignment with Petr Tluchoř’s faction within the Civic Democratic Party (ODS).
Klaus endorsed the appointment of Bendl (ODS) as Minister of Agriculture in a brief ceremony at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon. From the Castle, Bandl went straight to the Ministry of Agriculture where he held a short meeting with his predecessor Fuksa behind closed doors.
There had been speculation that Klaus may refuse to sign off on Bendl’s nomination due to his support ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek as party chairman, whereas Klaus backed the leadership bid by former Prague mayor Pavel Bém. Klaus, a co-founder of the ODS, left the party in 2008 following confirmation of Topolánek as leader by the party conference.
Bendl, 45, began his political career as mayor of Kladno in the central Bohemian region. From 2000 to 2008 he served two terms as governor of the central Bohemian region. In 2009 he served as Minister of Transport for several months in the second government of Topolánek, which was brought down by a vote of no confidence in March that year.
Since 2007, Bendl has been the leader of the Central Bohemia region branch of the ODS where Tluchoř has his main support base within the party. Tluchoř reportedly intends to challenge Bendl’s leadership at the branch’s congress on October 15.
Following the naming of Bendl as Fuksa’s replacement, Tuchoř implied that Bendl, who was together with Tuchoř in the faction that supported Topolánek, was a coward.
“Now no one can doubt that the replacement of Minister Ivan Fuksa is an attempt to influence the vote for the chairman of the ODS branch in Central Bohemia. … I’m disappointed with Petr Bendl that he didn’t even have enough courage or the decency to at least phone Ivan Fuksa [to tell him that] he had again changed his mind, and that he wouldn’t support him as minister and would himself take his place,” Tluchoř told the daily Právo.