>Topolánek: Kant go on like this

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Czech PM Miroslav Topolánek kicks off the congress of the ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the most crucial in years. He’s a competent, but not very inspiring speaker. The speech itself is no masterpiece, but when read off is effective, clear and to the point. The party’s meeting on the outskirts of Prague is symbolic of its marginalization in Czech politics (echoes of the Communist Party’s last Central Committee meeting in November 1989 before the regime’s collapse?). The party needs to find a strategy not for just election victory, but to create a sustainable Czech right-wing in the long term. It meeds to discuss the reasons for its thumping defeat in regional and Senate elections in an open, but civilized way. The debate should be between those who want to stay in ODS, not those who are planning to leave. Anyone who doesn’t like the realities can leave – if, as expected, he retains his leadership of the party, some probably will.
There’s also some vapid stuff about Christian values, including a quite from Kant (has Topol been reading the seer of Koenigsburg? or do I detect a speechwriter at work?) suggesting that Topolánek may be inclining to some revamp of the idea – in circulation since the mid-1990s – of making ODS a sort of centrist secular Christian Democratic party. This impression is reinforced by the call for ‘balance’ – classic trope in Czech political discourse – between realism and idealism, liberalism and conservatism, ‘heart and head’. A very similar slogan (rozum a srdce) was used under Klaus in 1998, but Topolánek’s stress on listening to what Czech citizens really want (i.e. not a triple helping of market forces and euroscepticism) suggests he see the need for the former, rational pragmatism, not the stoking of the ideological passions Václav Klaus wants to keep burning.

Anyone who doesn’t fancy tough choices and a difficult path, Topolánek concludes, can go elsewhere. One man who has sort of followed this advice is indeed VK.The Czech President, contrary to reports, will be turning up at the congress, gives a speech tomorrow morning. Expect something subtly poisonous and, who knows, a call for a new party?

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