Opposition Civic Democrats have new leader after 12 years

16-12-2002

In its twelve-year-old history, the right-of-centre Civic Democratic party, ODS, has only elected its second leader. Following Vaclav Klaus in the post, Senator Mirek Topolanek will lead the party in the years to come. Mr. Topolanek was elected ODS chairman at the party congress in the town of Frantiskovy Lazne at the weekend.

Mirek Topolanek and Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek and Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK Mirek Topolanek defeated his most serious rival, Petr Necas by 11 votes in the second round of the election. But the media agree that in the eyes of the party's former leader, Vaclav Klaus, Mr. Topolanek was not the best possible successor. However, the new chairman admits he likes Vaclav Klaus and that he will continue putting through the well-established ideology of the party, known as 'Klausism'. The general view now is that Klaus's intellectual version of leading the party will be replaced by a kind of more 'feet on the ground' ODS policy. There are questions about when the still waters within ODS will start to move, but one fact is quite sure already: all of Mr. Klaus's emotional contacts with his ideological rival, Social Democratic ex-prime minister Milos Zeman will be broken, and this very fact suggests that there'll be no cooperation between the two strongest parties, as happened under Mr. Klaus's leadership.Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

Although Mr. Topolanek told the press on Sunday that he was quite touched after having been elected the party's chairman, he announced at the same time quite a bold plan to change ODS into a more open party:

"I'm going to put through a gradual change in the party's voting mechanisms so that more rank and file members can participate. I'll take a risky, but necessary, step to open up the party to new members, and introduce a new system of promotion within the party, so that the party's local clans are dissolved, but ODS's stability is not shaken."

Although Mr. Topolanek has made it clear that his party will in no way collaborate with the ruling Social Democrats, he said he was willing to cooperate with the right part of Czech political spectrum. However, the Social Democrats as well as their colleagues in the coalition government, the right-of-centre Christian Democrats and Freedom Union, are convinced that Mirek Topolanek is a kind of person easy to negotiate with.

16-12-2002