Green Party leader confident after winning leadership election

08-09-2008

Martin Bursík, the leader of the Green Party can breathe a sigh of relief after a convincing victory over the weekend in a leadership contest spurred by his opponents. The party’s annual congress was moved forward by Mr Bursík in order to confront a rebellious faction opposed to his leadership, which accuses him of straying from the party’s roots. Chief among these opponents was Dana Kuchtová, a party insider vying for the top post. Two prominent Green MPs also opposed Mr Bursík’s leadership. Martin Bursík secured 227 out of 349 votes in the first round, thus putting an end for now to questions over his future. Dominik Jun spoke to political commentator Jan Urban for his take on the weekend’s events and began by asking him what Mr Bursík’s victory means not just for the party, but also the often fragile government coalition.

Martin Bursík, photo: CTKMartin Bursík, photo: CTK “It is good news for the government, but the question is for how long. Because as much as Mr Bursík has one a definitive victory over his opponents, it remains to be seen whether he will not eventually lose on or two of his MPs. In that case, it would be very difficult not only for the government, but also for Mr Bursík.”

Some people are saying that although he has won this leadership contest, the party is still very much divide. How true is this?

“All over Europe Green parties struggle with this combination of an NGO activist mentality and party politics. There is nothing new in that, even for the Czech Greens. But what is surprising is how definitive and clear Mr Bursík’s victory was in this case.”

Dana Kuchtová and Martin Bursík, photo: CTKDana Kuchtová and Martin Bursík, photo: CTK So is his position strengthened now, or is it still weakened by knowing that there is a faction within the party that would like to get rid of him?

“Within the party, he has won; his opposition is reviewing its chances – it may happen that a splinter group will now simply walk out. But the eyes of the political world are now on the two female Green Party MPs who are a part of this splinter group [Olga Zubová and Věra Jakubková]. If they walk out, then that would create difficulties for the entire government.”

And the fact that the Green Party is in a coalition with a right-of-centre government that supports, for example, the proposed US radar base – is this what is causing the internal tensions within the party?

It is only one of many reasons. A great part of it is personal, a great part of it is that the number of seats that the Greens won in the last election took everybody by surprise and too many people in the Green Party leadership thought that they should be on top. So, I think it is a typical Green politics middle-aged crisis.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK What is the general view of Mr Bursík’s leadership?

“His decision to call this early party congress proved to be a very shrewd move. Second, the decisive victory proved that he is in control and that his opponents simply overestimated their strength. And third, I think that he proved to be a very skilled politician and manipulator – both internally within his party, and within the government. A year ago, no-one would have believed that the rightwing Civic Democrats that leads the government coalition would make so many green moves, and that the Green Party would be able to move the government in their direction to such an extent.”

08-09-2008