ODS seeking Havel's election support

CzechNews
21. 4. 2009 15:00
The centrist ex-president and the rightwing party seem to be settling old differences.
Ex-president Václav Havel finds ODS without Klaus more acceptable.
Ex-president Václav Havel finds ODS without Klaus more acceptable. | Foto: Reuters

Prague - Recent statements made by outgoing PM Mirek Topolánek and former president Václav Havel have suggested that Havel might back Topolánek's Civic Democrats (ODS) against the Social Democrats (ČSSD) in the early general elections scheduled for October.

This is seen as a major turnaround in the previously bitter relationship between the centrist ex-president and the country's largest rightwing party.

ODS without Klaus more acceptable

"The ODS has much benefited from opening up to right-leaning people who were only part of a different group because the society was unnecessarily divided between Havel's and [President Václav] Klaus's supporters," Topolánek told daily Hospodářské noviny. He went on to say that he considers Havel a right-leaning figure.

"I don't deny that I have more sympathy for the new ODS," Havel told Lidové noviny (LN), referring to a shift in the party's style last year, which prompted Klaus, the party's founder, to quit.

"It seems to me that [the ODS] are now less arrogant and especially less fundamentalist," Havel said. He explained that what he found fundamentalist about Klaus and his old ODS was their "dogmatic cult of [free] market" and their Euroscepticism, which Havel described as "pseudo-patriotism".

The ODS continued the courtship by releasing an official statement: "We welcome the support of anyone who does not want the autumn early elections to result in a government of socialists [Social Democrats] and Communists. We appreciate such supporters although we are aware that our views may not always be identical."

Mirek Topolánek is looking for allies in the early elections.
Mirek Topolánek is looking for allies in the early elections. | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

Havel: ČSSD hurt the country

This appears to have been the warmest words ever exchanged between the centrist ex-president and the rightwing party.

The reconciliation came at the beginning of this year, after almost 12 years of open hostility between Havel and the ODS. In January, Topolánek visited Havel in a hospital where the ex-president was treated with a serious condition. Havel later helped Topolánek to arrange Barack Obama's visit to Prague.

After Jiří Paroubek's opposition ČSSD toppled Topolánek's government in a motion of no confidence shortly before Obama's visit and during the Czech presidency of the EU, Havel saw the move as an act of sabotage against his and Topolánek's joint efforts.

"Politicians are not supposed to make stupid things that hurt the country. I hope voters will duly punish the Social Democrats," Havel told LN.

The ODS has not yet defined its policy for the autumn general elections. Party leaders have indicated that rather than pledging further economic reforms, the ODS may try to discredit their main rival by highlighting that the ČSSD hurt the country during the Czech EU presidency and that they were ready to take the Communists to the government for the first time since 1989.

The elections will take place a month before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the communist regime in November 1989. A backing from Havel, the main hero of the Velvet Revolution and a staunch opponent of sharing power with the Communists, may be a major asset.

 

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