Senator Jiří Dienstbier (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.
As recently as May 14, the Social Democrats (ČSSD) could be forgiven for thinking that the doors were opening to the Straka Academy, the seat of the Czech parliament, based on the party’s strong showing in opinion polls (30 percent) at the expense of the center-right coalition. That was before regional governor David Rath was allegedly caught ‘red-handed’ taking a multi-million cash bribe home in a box, in a case linked to a partly EU-financed public procurement project.
A new public opinion poll shows presidential hopeful Miloš Zeman, the former Social Democrat (ČSSD) prime minister, gaining ground on Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar — in the battle for second place. However, the latest Factum Invenio poll shows 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 Švejnar and 12 percent for Zeman.
Czech MEP Evžen Tošenovský will officially announce his presidential candidacy on Saturday, with his nomination underpinned by the Civic Democrats (ODS) from the Moravian-Silesian region of which he was long governor, sources tell Czech Position. He has the backing of the current president, Václav Klaus, as well as Prime Minister Petr Nečas, the ODS chairman.
The Civic Democrats (ODS) party leadership (“gremium”) have backed Prime Minister Petr Nečas’ call for former Prague mayor Pavel Bém to hand in his parliamentary mandate due to evidence that has emerged of corruption and cronyism during his reign in City Hall.
Czech Social Democrats have ducked a difficult decision over whether to back an independent candidate, a US-based economist who found, and lost, one presidential campaign for them, or opt for a young, high-riding party senator, as their candidate in the first direct elections to become head of state. Economist Jan Švejnar might take the decision off their hands by deciding to stick with his new job at Columbia University.
A third of Czechs would cast their ballots in direct presidential elections next year for Jan Fischer, the statistician with no formal party ties who served as prime minister in a caretaker government, a survey by the Median agency showed. Meanwhile, Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar, who competed for the presidency in 2008 — in the last election to be decided by lawmakers — has lost favor.
A change many thought would not happen is now firmly on course, direct elections of the Czech head of state. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, gave the change sufficient backing late Wednesday in spite of worries expressed that it is a jump in the dark which upsets the country's constitutional balance and creates grounds for even more stand-offs between president, prime minister and parliament.
The Czech state long ago made the practice of hiring de facto employees but paying them as if they were doing contract work — dubbed “the Švarc system”— illegal, but tens of thousands of companies and “self-employed” contractors continued to rob the state of tax revenue in this manner with little fear of reprisal. That was all meant to change in January, when parliament approved a revised Labor Code with far higher fines, but now legislators themselves appear to be major offenders.