Martin Bursik

Martin Bursik (1959- ) leads the Green Party, an unusually successful formation, considering its size and finance, on the post- 1989 political scene. A government minister himself, he managed to win two more ministerial posts for his party MPs and one for independent Karel Schwarzenberg. Having only six MPs, this is quite extraordinary.

Bursik has concentrated on protecting the environment since his studies in the later 1980s. He was in charge of ecological questions on the Prague municipality and in 1998, he was appointed Minister of Environment for the first time, in Josef Tosovsky’s caretaker government, which lasted for several months. Those days he was in Christian Democratic Party, which he left in 2003 and joined the Green Party. He became a chairman of the latter in 2005 after the party undergone several shifts in direction and was in a state of chaos. If nothing else, he managed to put it back into one piece and led it towards a successful election.

Educated, well- spoken and capable of intelligent debate, he seems to resemble western professional politicians rather than the rather arrogant brutes which tend to dominate our politics. His eco- policies are mostly moderate and decidedly non-idealist, focusing on efficiency and incentives instead of interventions. Controversially, he continued the confused party’s shift to the right, defining the party as centre- right liberals. Which is quite an unusual face for a European Green.

What the more radical activists and, in fact, many others who gave the party a vote, dislike about his policy is that he is very loyal to the government. In order to keep things stable he often accepts things that an activists’ party should probably never cope with. He acts like a formidable politician of the typical brand, someone who would well know how to maneuver inside the New Labour, for instance. But he did not bring much of a change and he is often very pragmatic.

The case of Jirí Cunek is notorious. The Christian Democrat leader had several semi- racist remarks and defended his decision of solving a Roma ghetto problem by moving the Roma some miles away, into kind of a compound. Both goes so sharply against what the Greens stood for during the election campaign, that it forced them to give an ultimatum: either Cunek leaves or we leave. But, embarrassingly, neither of these things happened. A similar scenario was repeated in several occasions. Sadly, it made the Greens look too cautious, almost cowardly. What is an ultimatum for if your conditions are not met and you just turn it down?

Bursik is very able and he is one of the very few Czech politicians that is worth listening to. Both his speeches and debates are smart, informed, inspiring. But he is too pragmatic and flexible to satisfy a will for change. The Greens are gliding into a big trouble. The more radical part is growing stronger and it’s starting to pose a question that was being asked a year and a half ago: Do we have to be in a government we don’t like (and which doesn’t like us)? Why not move to opposition? I guess it’s a thought Bursik should have considered better after the 2006 election. The participation on current government may well bury the party in 2010.

Reservations aside, it would better be people like Bursik in the parliamentary benches, instead of the old squad.

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