PM’s ally Bendl voted Central Bohemia leader

Newly-appointed agriculture minister, Petr Bendl, wins leadership of Civic Democrats’ Central Bohemia branch by narrow margin.

Politics & Policy
Tom Jones | 17.10.2011
Petr Bendl speaking to journalists at the ODS Central Bohemia branch congress in Kladno

Petr Bendl was elected chairman by a narrow margin over the other contender, hitherto chairman Petr Tluchoř, at the congress of the Civic Democrats’ (ODS)  Central Bohemia branch over the weekend. The ballot was viewed by observers as a test of Prime Minister Petr Nečas’ ability to lead the party and he personally attended it to urge delegates to back his ally Bendl over “rebel” Tluchoř.

Bendl was backed by 74 delegates to become chairman of the Central Bohemian branch of the Civic Democrats, while 68 voted for Tluchoř to retain the post.

In the spring, a very public split emerged within the center-right Civic Democrats — the largest of the three ruling coalition parties — in the wake of the government crisis caused by allegations of bribery and corrupt practices centered on Vít Bárta, the de facto leader of Public Affairs, the smallest coalition party. Petr Tluchoř, who is considered an ally of former prime minister and former ODS leader Mirek Topolánek, called for an end to the coalition agreement with Public Affairs. Soon after, he lost his post as leader of the ODS grouping of MPs in the lower house of parliament.      

Tluchoř said Monday that Nečas’ attendance and address to the central Bohemian ODS congress undoubtedly swayed the vote against him.

“Undoubtedly the PM’s attendance influenced the vote. After he left the delegates stopped being afraid and during the vote for the vice-chairman [of the Central Bohemia branch] the real division of power could be seen,” Tluchoř told the daily Právo. The small majority for Bendl proved to be an illusion and the candidates he proposed for the post of deputy chairman were burnt out, Tluchoř added.        

Ivan Fuksa was elected deputy chairman in the first round of voting for the post after Bendl had been elected chairman and PM Nečas had left. Fuksa, considered to be Tluchoř’s ally, was dismissed as agriculture minister by Nečas on October 4. Nečas said he took the decision in response to Fuksa’s lack of input in government meetings. Fuksa, however, he was fired due to tensions within the party.

The Civic Democrat national party conference is to take place next weekend (Oct. 22-23) and there is speculation whether Tluchoř will attempt to call a vote of no confidence in party leader Nečas. The conference is due to vote on extending Nečas’ mandate as leader. “I don’t know if I myself should initiate something. Somebody will have to put forward the proposal for the extension [of Nečas’ mandate] and I will definitely express my opinion,” Tluchoř told Právo. 

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