Jana Bobošíková and the reset on the Czech right

Suverenita Party head Jana Bobošíková talks about a shake-up on the right amid speculation about what role President Klaus may play

„Suverenita je velmi často obviňována z populismu. Ale není to pravda. My se jen neobáváme pojmenovávat věci pravými jmény,“ říká předsedkyně strany Jana Bobošíková. | na serveru Lidovky.cz | aktuální zprávy „Suverenita je velmi často obviňována z populismu. Ale není to pravda. My se jen neobáváme pojmenovávat věci pravými jmény,“ říká předsedkyně strany Jana Bobošíková. | foto: ©isifaČeská pozice
„Suverenita je velmi často obviňována z populismu. Ale není to pravda. My se jen neobáváme pojmenovávat věci pravými jmény,“ říká předsedkyně strany Jana Bobošíková.

The head of the right-wing Czech political party Suverenita (Sovereignty), Jana Bobošíková, is talked about as one of the key figures in an expected realignment of the Czech political right.

A former advisor to Czech President Vacláv Klaus, who herself stood in the 2008 presidential elections, Bobošíková came to the public eye as a TV moderator and was a central figure in the Czech Television crisis of 2000/2001. Now a former Member of the European Parliament, she led Suverenita in the 2010 parliamentary elections with the party just failing to get over the 5.0 percent threshold necessary to win seats in the lower house (Chamber of Deputies).

Suverenita characterizes itself as the sole party protecting Czech interests and those of its citizens. Its platform — for example criticism of the EU and stress on individual and national rights — is virtually indistinguishable from the positions taken by the Czech head of state. The party is therefore seen as likely to play a key role as President Klaus prepares to position himself for a return to public life before his second presidential term expires in March 2013.

Bobošíková talks in this shortened interview about her long-time relations with the president and controversial Education Ministry official Ladislav Bátora who was at the center of a recent coalition life for his extremist views and comments, plans for her party and chances of a shake-up on the Czech political right.

Q: What are your near-term goals for the party?

A: Suverenita will of course take part in the regional elections in 2012. We will stand in all regions across the Czech Republic. Sometimes we will be in a coalition, sometimes alone: It will depend on the situation. At the moment, we are of course in preparations; we are talking with potential coalition partners. I can’t give out any names just now; the talks are not finished.  Definitely, we will not be in a nationwide coalition. Things will be done on an ad hoc basis with decisions taken at Suverenita party organization regional meetings.

Q: Will you be putting yourself forward as a regional leader [‘hejtman’]?

A: I will not be presenting myself in the regional elections. I’m concentrating on elections to the lower house of parliament, which in all likelihood will be in three years.

Q: That is an optimistic view of things. Do you really think that the next elections will be in three years?

A: I would be really surprised if there were early elections.

‘Suverenita is often accused of populism but this is not true. We are simply not afraid to call things by their proper name.’

Q: Apart for the specific regional issues, what general message will you be giving voters?

A: Suverenita is often accused of populism, but this is not true. We are simply not afraid to call things by their proper name. I don’t want to praise Suverenita, but quite often we raise a lot of unpleasant issues and talk with the media more than we probably should.

People should understand that life is not black and white, that you can’t expect continuous economic growth, that peoples’ lives are up and down. It is not going to happen that one day Brussels or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is going to come and help us. We should realize that the nearest helping hand is at the end of our own arm. That is at the heart of the solutions offered by Suverenita. We are not offering a bright and shining future.

Q: You say that you primarily want to explain to people. Will you therefore be going ahead with some contact campaign? Are you preparing some marketing tricks for voters?

A: Suverenita doesn’t take a marketing approach although we realize that in the short term this can pay off. We see politics as a civic, not a marketing, issue. That is more of a question for those who voted for parties that grew thanks to marketing and whether they regret that now.

Q: You are referring to Public Affairs (VV)?

A: I must say that I have not met one person who would admit to being among the 11 percent who voted for Public Affairs [in the 2010 lower house elections. Ed]. Suverenita will never be a party that seeks sponsors with the promise of future political power and all that implies. Neither I, nor my female colleagues, will appear before voters in bathing suit. [A reference to VV’s calendar featuring half-naked candidates] No, Suverenita continually expresses its views and it is an expression of civic opinions.

Q: Are you pleased that VV has lost public support? Wasn’t it due to VV that Suverenita failed last year to get enough votes in the lower house elections to get past the 5.0 percent mark?

A: I don’t want to gloat. I am not happy about the situation that the Czech Republic currently finds itself in. I don’t think that 20 years ago we would have expected to see the statistics we see now about decreasing Czech educational levels and the decline in the competitiveness of the Czech economy. We should have gone down a different path in order for the state administration to be structured in a different way and some political decisions not taken in the interest of some lobbyist or personal interest but in the interest of the Czech Republic.

Q:  President Klaus said on Czech Television on Thursday that some Public Affairs figures have enriched Czech politics. He described Josef Dobeš as the best Education Minister of the past 20 years. Do you agree with the president?

A: That is the world through the president’s eyes. The truth is that some of the minor things that minister Dobeš has tried to do have been good.

Q: And what about [VV de facto chairman] Vít Bárta, who was handed over by lower house lawmakers last week for questioning by police over suspicions of corruption? Is he a skillful and all-round political man [homus politicus] as Klaus has described him?

A: If you look at things from the pure view of political pragmatism and cynicism, he is skillful. He has built up Public Affairs from nothing and taken them into the lower house of parliament. If you don’t look at the methods how he got there, from this point of view Mr. Bárta is a successful politician. I don’t exclude that Minister Dobeš may have taken some good steps. Suverenita is not here to criticize at all costs.

‘ I would dare say that in the next election to the lower house of parliament, which people pay a lot more attention to, Suverenita could get 15 percent of the vote.’

Q: Can you say what sort of results would be a success for Suverenita in the regional elections?

A: I fear that the Czech Republic will be swept by an orange [the color of the left of center Social Democrats (ČSSD)] tsunami. We would be happy to get more than the 5.0 percent threshold in all regions. Suverenita is in the race long-term; it wants to anchor itself in the political system.

Suverenita is looking for long-term political success and is looking to be a mass party. If we have fair access to the media, I would dare say that in the next election to the lower house of parliament, which people pay a lot more attention to, Suverenita could get 15 percent of the vote.

Q: How do you regard developments surrounding Ladislav Bátora?

A: Mr. Bátora stood for Suverenita for the Senate in 2010. I am fully convinced that Mr. Bátora is not a Nazi, or a demi-fascist or how he is otherwise unflatteringly described by others in so-called high politics.

Q: Have you spoken recently with Mr. Bátora about possible political cooperation?

A: We have cooperated with Mr. Bátora for a long time. From time to time, he takes part in our debates ‘Discussions on the Right.’ We have not raised the issue of his future political engagement. Politically, we are close on a lot of things.

Q:  Over recent weeks it has become clear that as well as opponents, Ladislav Bátora also has a significant camp of supporters. Wouldn’t it be possible for Suverenita to get more supporters if it got Mr.  Bátora on its side?

A: People need to personalize politics. The views of Suverenita and Mr. Bátora are consistent long-term. Mr. Bátora was one of the first who demonstrated against the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in actions organized by us. We have got together at such events; we share a lot of opinions. I don’t, however, believe that we need each other in order to achieve something. People take it that we are one, large group with similar ideas. I would stress the fact that I use the phrase opinion-related group, not organization.

Q: At the moment there is a lot of speculation as to whether Vacláv Klaus will help found a new political party and whether he will directly play a part in it. Such a party would, apparently, be ideologically close to Suverenita and could take votes from it in elections. Have you not talked with the president about possible political cooperation?

A: There has been long-term speculation about what Vacláv Klaus will do after the presidency. I worked as his advisor, and so I know a bit about his working style. If he stays healthy, he will not quit public life. I would not dare to predict whether he will get directly involved in a political party or, for example, in the academic arena. It will depend on the political situation. ...

The fact is that Czech public and political life will in the future need Vacláv Klaus. President Klaus describes things how they are. I am thinking here about globalization, European integration, or about global warming. He warned about these things in spite of being ostracized, ridiculed, and attacked. I firmly believe that the end of Vacláv Klaus’ presidential term will not mean the disappearance of his beliefs from politics. It is a question, though, how these beliefs will be spread. I am myself curious whether this will be in the form of a political party or some sort of think-tank .

Q: You have talked about being part of a strengthening stream of European ideas. What beliefs and values are being combined here?

A: This stream of ideas tries to highlight such things as the attempt to limit free speech. I became very angry about this with reference to the case of Mr. Bátora. Your parents probably remember how people would adapt their opinions if they were going to the stores or going out in the fields. When deputy prime minister and Foreign Mininster [Karel] Schwarzenberg said that Mr. Bátora should go take a hike with his views, this is precisely what we don’t want.

It is necessary to raise the alarm and warn about some mainstream practices. That it what connects us in Suverenita to Mr. Bátora, and to a certain extent the Free Citizens Party [Strana svobodných občanů created by economist Petr Mach]. The unifying theme of this stream of ideas is the protection of individual freedoms and sovereignty of this county.

‘This counts on people not being told repeatedly  that they would, for example, have it better if they were controlled by Brussels.’

Q: It is clear that if this stream of ideas, as you describe it, is to succeed in elections then it must be organized in a concrete way?

A: When we founded Suverenita, we said that anyone who wanted to join us could join us. But the merger process has been extraordinarily demanding from an administrative perspective. So some parties, whose membership came over to us, have ceased to function.

People from the Free Citizens Party, for example, joined us. People from the Civic Democrats (ODS) and Democratic Green Party (DSZ) also joined. The latter party only really exists for organizational purposes. This process must continue with people from Suverenita playing a part in it.

Suverenita doesn’t have to be the initiator of this process. We want to try to ensure that citizens have fewer unachieved expectations. This counts on people not being told repeatedly that they would, for example, have it better if they were controlled by Brussels.

Q: The last question refers to the presidential elections of 2013. Will you be a candidate and under what circumstances?

A: If there was a direct election, certainly. And the same holds true if I get the support of 10 members of the lower house or senators.