People’s offer for Europe

František Talíř is mainly supported by young, more educated voters, especially religious Catholics, who are addressed by the ethos of Pope Francis’ encyclical. Photo FB František Talíř

On Saturday, May 20, at the Charitas Palace in Prague, the governing KDU-ČSL selected its first ten candidates for the European Parliament elections, which will take place exactly one year from now. The People’s primaries were not a widely watched domestic political event, but they nevertheless offer an interesting perspective on the possible future expectations of the direction of center-right parties on the Czech political scene.

In the past, the selection of candidates for the European Parliament was marked by the low willingness of leading party figures to apply for positions in the European Parliament in all parties. Those who took this path were usually unable to maintain an intense presence on the domestic political scene, and as a result, the appointment of a candidate was more like an audition for a “golden political pension”. This phenomenon touched many sides.

Since around 2014, another phenomenon has been added to the filling of leading positions on candidates for the European Parliament: especially for younger candidates, campaigning for the European elections is a way to gain proper visibility in order to open an easier path to domestic politics. The result of the People’s Party primaries this year more or less destroys these two long-held stereotypes, and therefore it makes sense to pay attention to them.

Bet on experience

There are no surprises in the position of leader of the People’s Party candidate. It was won by Tomáš Zdechovský, who has already served two terms in the European Parliament for the KDU-ČSL and would start a third next year. He is one of the most active Czech MEPs in terms of the number of submitted proposals and also a person who, thanks to his skills in the field of marketing and public communication, is able to present his work properly.

Tomáš Zdechovský knows how to find topics that resonate in society, are attractive to the majority audience, but on the other hand, do not contradict his personal beliefs or the ideological and value basis of Christian Democratic politics. He then takes up such topics and promotes them in the public space with due vigor. In the last European elections in May 2019, this strategy earned him the highest number of preferential votes among populist candidates — over 25,000 rings — and his party retained two MEP seats.

However, some people’s party members considered putting a well-known personality outside of the people’s ranks as the head of the candidate. The candidate most often mentioned was Senator Pavel Fischer. The question, however, is why such a strategy should be beneficial to humans at this time. The nomination of a non-party member at the expense of one’s own current MEPs could be interpreted rather negatively — on the one hand as evidence that the KDU-ČSL is a party emptied of personnel, and on the other hand as an attempt to deprive Zdechovský of this position.

Young favorite in second place

It was somewhat of a surprise that the delegates did not choose the experienced long-time MEP and previously a member of the Czech House of Representatives, Michaela Šojdrová, as the second candidate, but gave preference to František Talíř, the thirty-year-old deputy governor of the South Bohemian Region. He, of course, has a great chance to sit in the European Parliament from the second place.

If it was an unknown young candidate, he could be threatened by preferential votes for more experienced candidates. However, František Talíř already managed to get almost 10,000 preferential votes in the last European elections four years ago and moved from the sixth place of the candidates to the fourth place. In the following year, he became the deputy governor of South Bohemia, when he finished fourth in the absolute number of preferential votes obtained behind the matadors of South Bohemian politics, such as Martin Kuba, Ivana Stráská and Jan Zahradník.

Talíř’s subsequent work in the management of the region was far from being limited to regional work. He tried to find topics that can appeal to a wider audience throughout the country. He knew very well that his work was followed mainly by young, more educated voters, especially religious Catholics, to whom he is close in his faith and upheld values. In addition, he became massively visible among them already seven years ago, when he moderated the Czech program on the World Youth Day, a spectacular meeting of young Catholics from all over the world with Pope Francis in Krakow.

It is precisely in the spirit of the value accents of Pope Francis’ encyclical that the Pope’s namesake, Talíř, tries to choose the topics with which he presents himself in politics. It emphasizes the policy of human rights, the support of democracy and the protection of the environment, which in the regional dimension also means the management of agriculture and tourism.

However, his recent trip to Ukraine, to the war zone in the Mykolaiv region, with which he negotiated interregional cooperation of his region, was a major achievement. He is one of the few Czech as well as European politicians who went directly to the war zone.

František Talíř represents a rare phenomenon of Czech politics in that, at his relatively young age, he has the ambition to make politics equal to the pan-European level without “interim stops” in the Czech parliament. In this respect, he more or less follows Zdechovský, who went through a similar story.

But František Talíř is not the only younger candidate in the top ten. Ondřej Mikmek, the thirty-five-year-old mayor of Slatinice in Olomouc, placed fourth, Václav Pláteník, the thirty-three-year-old deputy minister of health, and Adéla Chamrádová, the twenty-nine-year-old project manager of the Bavarian Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung in Prague, placed sixth.

Presidential candidate up to fifth

Somewhat surprising to many observers is the position of the chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee and recent presidential candidate Pavel Fischer. He finished in fifth place in the primary elections. As the indicators of electoral geography reveal, Fischer was clearly supported by many KDU-ČSL voters in the race for the Castle, but he also traditionally has an overlap among “Havl” voters in Prague and other big cities. However, this does not mean that his voters from the presidential elections will want to vote for the KDU-ČSL in the European Parliament and that they will want to circle him.

For a connoisseur of contemporary geopolitics and an experienced diplomat, it is undoubtedly attractive to take a seat in the EU parliamentary body. However, even among staunch Fischer supporters, there is no unique opinion that he is needed more in the Czech Senate and on the domestic political scene than in Brussels and Strasbourg. This too could have had an impact on his result in the primaries. In addition, many people have long been bothered by Fischer’s ostentatious non-partisanship and lack of interest not only in joining the party he is running for, but even in its senatorial club. For the fifth year already, Fischer is only an unclassified senator.

Alone or in a coalition? It will be clear in autumn

The People’s Party elected their first ten candidates, but paradoxically, it is not yet clear how many of them will actually run for office. The reason is the still unresolved question of whether the People’s Party will go to the elections alone or in a coalition with one of the partners. It should be clear only in the fall of this year.

The TOGETHER coalition is most often considered for the European elections as well. For the joint candidate of the ODS, KDU-ČSL and TOP 09, the chances of winning the elections, strengthening relations for the next parliamentary elections in two years, and last but not least, also saving on election costs speak for themselves.

However, ideological differences between the parties and different positions on European issues speak against it. It is hard to imagine that Alexandr Vondra, who opposes the Green Deal, and Luděk Niedermeyer, who in the European Parliament supported the ban on internal combustion engines from 2035 and the Euro 7 emission standard, would stand together on the same candidate list.

Moreover, for smaller parties, the European elections are a rare opportunity to present themselves without a great risk of losses. Given the expected low voter turnout and at the same time the discipline of the People’s voter base, it can be assumed that the defense of two mandates should be problem-free for the People’s Party. The only question mark hangs over who will become the new MEP. However, the results of the Lidovecki primaries provided significant clues.

Source: Deník referendum by

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