Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda won a resounding victory in Civic Democrat (ODS) elections for a new regional leadership for the capital, taking the top spot himself and seeing supporters voted to all five deputy chairman posts.
In the battle for the chairmanship of the influential region, Svoboda beat his sole challenger, Prague 11 district’s Jiří Janeček, by 68 votes to 10 on Monday night. A total of 95 party votes were up for grabs.
The battle for the lesser posts of deputy chairman were also a decisive show of support for the Prague mayor’s pledge to clean out a tainted old guard tarnished by suspect ties to business lobbies. The post of first deputy chairman was taken by Svoboda supporter and deputy minister at the Ministry of Finance Zdeňek Zajíček, with 84 votes in his favor.
The other deputy chairman posts went to Svoboda supporters; lower house MP Marek Benda, Prague 4 mayor Pavel Horálek, ex-city hall executive council member Ondřej Pecha, and deputy mayor of the Prague 9 district Tomáš Portlík. Their main opponent was Rudolf Blažek, former deputy mayor during the reign of Svoboda’s predecessor Pavel Bém. Svoboda’s supporters described the outcome as a mix of talents and experiences.
Four candidates dropped out of the contest before the vote, the most prominent of them being Minister of the Environment Tomáš Chalupa who had been expected to lead the challenge to Svoboda’s wave of change. Other drop-outs were lower house MP Jana Černochová, Ondřej Gross, and Prague 8 mayor Josef Nosek.
The party congress was characterized by bad blood between the right-wing party’s rising and falling factions: Former Prague region party leader Boris Šťastný resigned after a so-called coup d’etat at the town hall at the end of 2011 when Svoboda brought in the TOP 09 party to replace the left-of-center Social Democrats (ČSSD) as the ODS’s partner against in the face of internal party opposition.
‘A cheap sell-out of the ODS to TOP 09 has taken place which ODS must master or it will be broken apart from within.’
“At Prague City Hall a coup has occurred on the basis of mediocrity,” commented Šťastný. “We old idiots from the ODS would have wanted democracy. A cheap sell-out of the ODS to TOP 09 has taken place which ODS must master or it will be broken apart from within,” he added.
In an interview ahead of the vote, Svoboda said that he had confounded those who had thought he would just be a puppet in the hands of the party’s so-called “godfathers” and business interests when he was elected as Prague mayor in 2010. “In the last year I have shown all the doubting Thomases that this lack of trust in my person and my policies were unfounded,” he told the daily Denik.
“Members of the ODS have seen today that a process has started which it is necessary to lead to a conclusion and that they are not just figures on a chessboard, but part of a whole and that their opinions count,” he added.
Svoboda has not hidden his ambition to climb the ODS party ladder and claim a leading role within the nationwide organization. The mayor’s triumph over the party organization in the capital represents a boost for prime minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrat, ODS) who is eyeing his potential backing ahead of a vote next year by regional chapters which will determine whether he holds onto the position of party chairman.