Jan Macháček


Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

Švejnar under fire; a promising start

12. 11. 2007
The Civic Democrats (ODS) have officially announced their candidate for the presidency—Václav Klaus—the current head of state.

It should not be surprising therefore, that the ODS is already attacking potential rival candidate Jan Švejnar (Social Democrat, ČSSD) quite aggressively. Attacking and criticizing political opponents is normal.

On the other hand, the ODS should tread carefully in criticizing Švejnar (pictured) to avoid looking weak and fearful, otherwise voters will surely punish the “blue bird” party later.

Deputy Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) said last week that Švejnar has a conflict of interests as a presidential candidate since he is also chairman of the supervisory board of bank Československá obchodní banka (ČSOB), which is in a legal dispute with the Czech state over Kč 30 billion (€ 1.1 billion).

This begs a few questions. What jobs does Nečas think suitable for presidential candidates? Should these people be unemployed? And what kind of jobs should not be tolerated?

Being a chairman of a supervisory board is a nonexecutive function. People can have dif-ferent opinions about the forced administration of Investiční a Poštovní banka and its subsequent takeover by ČSOB, but Švejnar was not involved with the bank at the time.

The wife of Václav Klaus, Livia, was a member of the supervisory board of Česka spořitelna bank at the time Klaus was elected president. Klaus’ chief of office Jiří Weigel was a member of a supervisory board of IPB before it was put under forced administration. Klaus and former Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlustý (ODS) were also involved in an attempt to arrange a pardon for financial services group Nomura, the former owner of IPB. The list of connections between Klaus and the ODS with numerous owners and managers of failed banks during the 1990s forms quite an impressive chain.

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has also criticized Švejnar on account of his position at ČSOB. But it is surely Kalousek who has the greater conflict of interests. Unlike Švejnar, he is a minister of finance and not just a candidate, and, like former Finance Minister Tlustý, he is very close to Nomura and was connected with the privatization of Plzeňske pivovary, which also involved Nomura. It is the ODS, and specifically Kalousek, who should keep silent about conflicts of interests.

Švejnar needs broad appeal

The ČSSD’s chosen presidential candidate, Jan Švejnar, has a chance of winning only if he gains the support of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), most of the Communists (KSČM) and some within the ODS.

Why on earth would communists vote for Švejnar? Let us look first at his ideological back-ground. For communists, Švejnar represents dangerous international capitalism and institutions such as the World Bank. But Švejnar was involved with the bank as an economist in development and labor participation projects. He also knows a great deal about China and its communist-style capitalism. Like many U.S. liberals, Švejnar is not enthusiastic about the proposed U.S. radar base, especially if it will not form part of the NATO defense system.

Surprisingly, Klaus seems to be a more promising candidate for communists. He is staunchly opposed to the EU and most communist voters also dislike the EU because they fear it imports dangerous international capitalism. However, some of the “communist elite,” such as Member of European Par-liament Miroslav Ransdorf, have recently become more supportive of the EU. Klaus’ nationalism is also quite encouraging for KSČM members. Communists may espouse socialist internationalism as an ideal, but they have often encouraged xenophobia as an easy route to social conformity.

Klaus is also close to communists with his etatism: he has no respect for any institution that comes between the state, political parties and citizens. He often speaks about “NGOism,” about too much activism from within civic society. The first thing the communists liquidated when they took power in 1948 was civic society and it is still only gradually lifting its head. Švejnar knows, as most Americans know (or perhaps feel), that NGOs, voluntary groupings and lively communities constitute the basis of society.

But in the final phase, it could be ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek who has the most sway in persuading communists to vote for Švejnar. With the ČSSD gaining steadily in the polls, Paroubek’s bargaining position is looking much stronger.

Political chameleons, the KDU-ČSL, have traditionally sided with the parties and individuals who appear to be in the strongest position and heading toward forming a government. The party is a presence in almost every coalition. With the ČSSD doing well in the polls, there is still a chance that the party could side with Paroubek and support Švejnar.

Klaus has opponents within his own party, including Topolánek who he famously described as “empty and false.” It is likely that if Klaus is re-elected, Topolánek will be among the first to go. However, ODS members also fear that votes for Švejnar could split the party into factions and bring about a free-fall in the polls. The party’s fate is in its own hands and there is no such likelihood of such an outcome yet. Moreover, if the ODS wants to implement real reform, Švejnar will not be against it.

Švejnar’s bid is not without hope and he is a strong enough candidate to offer real competition to Klaus. A strong contest will be good for business and politics, and could help to push opinions out into the open. For this election, Švejnar is good news.

Žádné komentáře
Toto je zápatí Vašich stránek. Text můžete změnit v administraci v 'Nastavení stránek'.