We must find as strong a candidate for president as possible, the leaders of the five governing parties have announced in the past. But time was running out, and according to information from Aktuálně.cz, it is already certain that they will not come up with any candidate of their own. The representatives of the four parties have already confirmed this information, the ODS is still consulting, but it also does not have anyone yet. It is thus increasingly likely that the parties will give more general recommendations to the electorate.
There are only four months left until the presidential elections, and the government coalition has not yet presented its candidate to succeed Miloš Zeman, and probably will not. “We are still negotiating,” repeats Prime Minister Petr Fiala from the ODS when asked whether the winning parties of last year’s parliamentary elections have finally agreed on a name. At the time when he was taking over the government of the country, he was talking about the need to have his own candidate. Now government politicians are announcing that they do not have one and that they will support some of those who have already announced their candidacy.
“The final decision has not yet been made. I personally consider it crucial that the future president be a person who will respect the constitution, unite society, be unequivocally pro-Western and democratic, and represent us well in the international arena,” the head of TOP told Aktuálně.cz on Monday 09 and the Chamber of Deputies Markéta Pekarová Adamová with reference to some of the announced candidates.
“I’m more of a supporter of not building another one and leaving it up to the voters to decide which of the candidates best fulfills these qualities for them. No one should definitely ensure immunity in criminal cases by running for office,” he alludes to the chairman of ANO, Andrej Babiš, who is being prosecuted on suspicion of subsidy fraud. The former prime minister has not ruled out a fight for the Castle, if he decides to go for it, polls put him among the favorites.
Another high-ranking politician of the Spolu coalition expressed the same opinion, according to which it would not be appropriate for the government to send its candidate to the elections amid criticism for the current price hike. “It would be the kiss of death. The one who is not significantly associated with the government has a better chance,” said the politician on condition of anonymity. “We would only give a general recommendation that people vote for someone who supports membership in NATO and the European Union, is a supporter of the market economy and tries to unite society, not divide it,” he said.
The Spolu coalition consists of ODS, KDU-ČSL and TOP 09, whose chairmen decided to announce the result together, without any of them informing the media beforehand. The first round of the presidential election will be on January 13 and 14, with a possible second round two weeks later.
The rest of the government, i.e. Pirates and Mayors and independents, has no candidate either. “When we see how trust in the government is decreasing, it might not be desirable to explicitly support or stand for one candidate,” said the president of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš. “The president should embrace the whole society and think that the republic is made up of 10 million people. He cannot be the president of only some part of society,” he added.
Nerudová leads the Pirate Forum
Pirates (similar to STAN) will probably not recommend one candidate. “Based on an internal party poll, it will be clear who has the Pirates’ preference. According to the voting process, Danuše Nerudová is leading, General Petr Pavel is second and Senator Marek Hilšer is third,” Bartoš named the former rector of Mendel University, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee and the senator who participated the last election of the head of state.
According to Bartoš himself, he supports Neruda. “Of the candidates known so far, she is the closest to me. The way she behaves and the topics she presents in the campaign. I have a lot of intersections with her, for example solving the availability of housing or helping people who get into trouble,” he explained.
Even the Mayors will not come with their candidate, which was confirmed by Aktuálně.cz chairman Vít Rakušan. “We haven’t found him, although we have considered some names,” he said. According to him, the party will give more general recommendations. “We will behave in such a way that a candidate who is populist, anti-system and whose values are incompatible with anchoring the Czech Republic and our movement does not win,” he declared.
As far as the Spolu coalition is concerned, the position of the ODS and its chairman, Prime Minister Fiala, depends above all. He admitted several times that finding a candidate is difficult. “It is not enough to have someone who is sympathetic to the voters of the government coalition. He must win over other voters as well. He must be a personality who can withstand the great pressure brought by political campaigns,” he told Aktuálně.cz in April this year.
He repeated his words later in various variations, meanwhile the time to choose was quickly running out. “The closer we get to the election, the less likely it will be to pull someone the public has never heard of. But I want to make sure we come up with a solution. Whether it’s our name or we stand up for someone,” he declared.
But who will it be? “He would like to see someone who is a politician or well-versed in politics as president. He should have experience in public activity. And of course he should hold views close to the ODS,” said a reliable source who is close to Fiala. He did not want to be named either.
Fischer and Vystrčila are waiting
According to him, there is no one among the current candidates who would ideally suit the ODS and the Spolu coalition. The fewest comments fall on the address of Pavel and Nerudová, the party members would also reconcile with Hilšer. General Pavel’s membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia before November 1989, as well as speculation about whether he was preparing to become a spy, bothers them.
“For example, the first vice-chairman of the ODS and the Minister of Finance Zbyněk Stanjura came out strongly against the fact that we would support Pavel,” said the source. There are also concerns about whether the former long-time soldier will be able to handle the difficult pre-election televised debates. He has no experience with anything like this.
Nerudová’s disadvantage for government politicians is that she is not well known to the public, even though she is rising in the polls. According to polls, former Prime Minister Babiš would win the first round if he were to fight. In the second, it is Pavel or Nerudová who has the best chance to beat him.
If, after all, the three-coalition Spolu decides to put up its own candidate, the names of Senate President Miloš Vystrčil from the ODS and the head of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Pavel Fischer, who ran in the previous presidential election, like Hilšer, are most often mentioned. Earlier, the ODS was considering the prime minister’s adviser Tomáš Pojar.
Aktuálně.cz asked several times about Vystrčil’s candidacy. The senator claimed that it was highly unlikely, but he did not completely rule it out. “I don’t know what would have to happen for me to run,” he said now. He responded vaguely to the question of whether his position would change if he defended his senatorial mandate with a significant gain of votes at the end of September. “It’s certainly not like I’m certain of victory,” he said.
Fischer indicates that he is considering a candidacy, but he also has not yet said a clear word. He has pointed out several times that he is reaching out to his supporters, including sponsors. For example, General Pavel said in the past that if Fischer had a better chance of winning the election than him, he would support him.
Otherwise, both Pavel and Nerudová keep their distance from the government parties. “My decision that I am going to the elections as a citizen’s candidate is valid. I want to maintain my independence, I am turning to the people with a request for support,” said Pavel, who in the past met with the party leaders of the Spolu coalition. “I told them that I don’t want to be their candidate, but if they decide to support me, I will welcome it. At the moment, I am not negotiating with the government parties, we don’t even have any agreement,” he said.
Nerudová also reacts in a similar spirit. “I don’t seek party support, but that doesn’t mean I don’t talk to politicians or party representatives. That’s one of the duties of the president,” she said. “After the heated parliamentary elections, where a fifth of the votes were lost and 35 percent of the people did not come to vote, it should be the president who acts beyond the party and with understanding for those who are frustrated or feel left out,” she recalled the elections to the lower house of October last year.