This year, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its establishment. It was founded April 20, 1991, at a congress in Olomouc. That meeting elected the party’s first chairman, current Czech President Václav Klaus. He remained at the helm of the ODS until 2002, when he was replaced by Mirek Topolánek. Since June 2010, current Prime Minister Petr Nečas has been the party’s chairman.
Over the two decades, the ODS has suffered several crises. According to many people, the party’s current condition is not satisfactory either. Perhaps the harshest criticism of the party’s current policies was voiced by Miroslav Macek, a prominent member in the 1990s: “One should only celebrate when there is a reason for celebration, and when looking at the ODS’s current diffuse policy, I can by no means see one.”
On account of his disapproval of ODS policy, in December 2008 Václav Klaus too ceased to be an official member. However, 73.6 percent of the top managers addressed within the Czech Position’s Voice of the Elite poll said the ODS would not benefit from Klaus becoming the party’s chairman again.
One respondent gave a mixed opinion. “Václav Klaus is one of our most distinct politicians of the new era. He possesses great charisma and has a clear idea of the world. In this respect, it would be beneficial for the ODS if he returned to its helm. Yet by no means would it be beneficial for the Czech Republic if the ODS headed by him subsequently won the election,” one respondent began. ‘At all costs, Václav Klaus wants to pursue his own direction, since he assumes that it is the only correct one.’
“The problem is that Klaus’ clear idea of the world only represents his personal opinions, while owing to his absorption in himself he is not able to accept any other attitudes and viewpoints, even well-founded arguments. At all costs, Václav Klaus wants to pursue his own direction, since he assumes that it is the only correct one. This could have a negative impact on the Czech Republic’s domestic and foreign policies,” the respondent continued.
“There are several events from the not so distant past when Václav Klaus’s direction was more a burden than a benefit for the Czech Republic. For example, the glorious/inglorious coupon privatization and the current political (non-) culture of the Czech politicians, which has its roots in the development of our politics following the Velvet Revolution,” this respondent concluded.
Another manager said Klaus’ return to the helm of the ODS would definitely be beneficial: “With the departure of Václav Klaus, the ODS lost a clear vision, direction and objectives. Without him, the party lacks a strong leader. That is why I support Klaus’ return to the post of ODS chairman.”
The following two negative answers contain the notion Klaus’ engagement in the ODS is over: “Václav Klaus did a lot of good for the ODS. Yet he is over the hill, even though he does not want to admit it,” the first said
“His time has gone,” the second added bluntly.
Another respondent is unable to decide: “Although I do think highly of President Klaus, I think that the ODS would benefit more from young faces, not the politicians who have been on the scene for more than 20 years. And neither Petr Nečas, Ivan Langer or Petr Tluchoř, for example, are such politicians. The ODS needs new ‘guns’, but it has not brought up any. Therefore, the party will continue to stagnate, and Václav Klaus’s intention to return to its helm will probably come true.”
Time for a new generation
Three negative answers also point to the need for new faces. “If the ODS wants to return to its heyday and reconquer its lost positions, it has to have new and trustworthy representatives,” the first said.
“Václav Klaus is and always has been a significant political personality. His sense of rendering what is politically important and the ability he used in the 1990s to persuade the voters are truly remarkable. I am curious about his political activities after the end of his second presidential term. Whatever he decides to do, it will certainly be interesting to observe him and listen to what he has to say. Nevertheless, in no case should he become the ODS’s chairman again. The party’s chance rests in a new leader with political intuition, the potential to bring forth a vision and the ability to win voters over to it,” the second said. ‘Everyone is paddling in a different direction and the boat is moving more backward than forward.’
“The ODS would definitely benefit from a capable leader who is capable of unifying it and setting not only a reasonable but truly right-wing political course — and, above all, forcing the party’s members to stick to it. For the time being, everyone is paddling in a different direction and the boat is moving more backward than forward. Unless this happens, TOP 09 will soon become the strongest right-wing party, one that has a bold leader, although not in the official position of captain,” the third said.
Two positive answers were quite critical of Klaus. “Despite all the reservations against the personality of Václav Klaus, the great helmsman, any change in ODS leadership will only be a change for the better. And following his ‘antics’ in Chile, all the ‘godfathers’ in the ODS must realize who is the king. I simply cannot imagine that a rival candidate would appear should Klaus decide to run for the post of ODS chairman,” one manager said.
“Václav Klaus should return to lead the ODS, and immediately afterwards leave it and abolish the party. Then he himself should immediately resign from the presidential office. That would be perhaps the best present to the citizens of the country to mark the 20th anniversary of the ODS,” the second began.