The Current Head of the Czech Government
The current Czech PM started his political career in Ostrava, first as a member of the Civic Forum (Občanské fórum, OF). In 1994 he joined the ODS (Občasnká demokratická strana, Civic Democratic Party), the first successful post- 1989 political party in the country. A party that seeks the upper middle class voter, following the neo- liberal code that the free market should by no means be controlled by the state. Topolánek spent his first years in politics in one of the centres of inter-group divisions, which led to the collapse of the OF, an attempt to an open platform where matters would be solved without political parties. His party is sceptical towards the EU, towards any government interventions, it doesn’t speak much about welfare and focuses its attention mainly at free enterprise, which should, when successful, bring profit to all. They strongly advocate politics of laissez faire and support ties with the USA. In all, they rather resemble the Republican Party in the US than European centre- right.
After spending two years in communal politics he was a Senator from 1996 to 2004, when he was elected the party chairman.
Topolánek’s relationship with the founder of the party, the current President Václav Klaus, is a difficult one. Klaus was never really fond of Topolánek, for various reasons, mainly personal. His man in the party is mainly the Prague mayor Pavel Bém. But since he wanted to keep the job, he chose not to compete for getting to the top of the party. According to many commentators, he is now waiting for the right time, for example if Topolánek´s fragile government would collapse. Then he could possibly take over. Vlastimil Tlustý is the second major rival, outspoken and somehow successful, but not likely to become the party chairman, albeit minister of the government. The problem Tlustý has is the fact that he was a member of the Communist Party in the 1980´s.
Topolánek is not very subtle and every once in a while he makes headlines through some vulgar and/or politically hyper-incorrect remark. Certain impulsiveness is a part of his public image: he likes to be seen as the big, down- to- Earth guy from Ostrava rather than a cold and pragmatic political professional. He doesn’t like journalists very much and is often very clumsy at handling the media. Few Central- Eastern and Eastern European leaders are not, by the way. One can’t deny him some competence, though, since the government, holding on the tiniest majority possible, still holds together. Opinions differ whether it should, but that’s another question.