Thursday, 17 January 2019

TOP 09 facing major change in its leadership

ČTK |
26 November 2015

Prague, Nov 25 (CTK) - The Czech opposition TOP 09 party stands ahead of the biggest change since its establishment in 2009 at the weekend election congress where its chairman Karel Schwarzenberg is most likely to be replaced by current first deputy head Miroslav Kalousek.
Schwarzenberg, 77, who has always led the party so far, decided not to be defending the post. Kalousek, 54, is the only candidate for chairmanship and his victory is almost certain.
The conservative TOP 09, which was catapulted to the government three years after its establishment, initiated by Kalousek, ended in opposition after the previous general election in October 2013.
In the first election to the Chamber of Deputies, in which it took part, in 2010, TOP 09, running in alliance with the Mayors and Independents (STAN), ended third with 16.7 percent of the vote and 41 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament. In the 2013 early general election, support for TOP 09/STAN decreased, but it still won almost 12 percent of the vote and 26 seats. Schwarzenberg announced then that his party would go into opposition.
As an opposition party, TOP 09 filled one post of the deputy chairpersons of the Chamber of Deputies. After the unsuccessful election of Miroslav Kalousek, Petr Gazdik from STAN was elected lower house deputy chairman. Former foreign affairs minister Schwarzenberg was elected head of the lower house foreign committee and Kalousek replaced Gazdik as head of the TOP 09 and STAN deputy group.
Kalousek has become one of the loudest voices of the opposition in parliament. He has frequently criticised the steps taken by the government and the coalition policy of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). Finance Minister, ANO chairman and billionaire businessman Andrej Babis has become a frequent target of his criticism and both men ended up in a sharp dispute several times.
Since the previous election congress in December 2013, TOP 09 has participated in the Senate, European Parliament (AP) and local elections.
In the election to one-third of the upper house, TOP 09 was defending four seats, but gained no mandate. It does not have a single senator now.
TOP 09/STAN was more successful in the EP election, in which it ended second and gained four MEPs (TOP 09 proposed three of them).
In the local polls, TOP 09 finished fifth with 8.4 percent of the vote, but if translated into mandates (868), it was eighth. TOP 09 failed to repeat its victory in Prague from 2010 and was closely defeated by the ANO movement and went into opposition.
At present, TOP 09 is supported by about 6 percent of Czechs in election preferences polls, carried out by STEM, and it would cross the 5-percent parliamentary threshold.
In the upcoming regional election to be held in the autumn of 2016, TOP 09 will not run in a coalition with STAN, as believed. Some observers expect STAN to break up with TOP.
TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg wrote to CTK recently that further cooperation of both parties would depend on the regional election´s results.
STAN and TOP 09 are jointly preparing the list of candidates for the election to one-third of the Senate that is also scheduled for next year.
hol/dr/ms

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