Václav Klaus made what is now a limited number of appearances on Czech television as president this weekend – speaking to TV Prima’s weekly politics programme Nedělní Partie in a special edition from Prague Castle. President Klaus – who has 80 days left in office – spoke at length about the pressing economic and political problems of the day, but also gave more hints about exactly what he plans to do – and not do – when he steps down in March.
President Václav Klaus has less than three months left in office; on March 8th, 2013, he’ll leave Prague Castle after 10 years as president, and an uninterrupted 23 years in the vanguard of Czech politics. Like him or loathe him, he is one of the three political heavyweights of post-revolution politics, and with Václav Havel dead and Miloš Zeman still technically a pensioner – even if he is bidding to succeed him – Václav Klaus enjoys a unique position in Czech public life.
Sunday’s 55-minute interview on TV Prima concentrated on budgetary and ministerial questions, but President Klaus was also asked who should succeed him as president. Despite having endorsed Miloš Zeman in the past, as the only truly political candidate, this time he declined to name any names.
“I don’t think I can give you a name. First, because that person could abuse it as some sort of ‘official endorsement.’ Second, because I’d be pilloried for running a free presidential campaign on behalf of that person. And third, that person might consider it as ‘the kiss of death’ that I endorsed him. So no, I’m afraid I’d rather not say.”
Much attention has focused on what Václav Klaus plans to do with himself when he wakes up as an ex-president on the morning of March 8th, amid speculation he could return to top-level politics. He confessed to Prima he had little idea how he would feel, but did reiterate his future role would be purely advisory, not that he would be shy about commenting on public affairs.
“I think most people already know what I intend to do. I really intend – no, it’s more than an intention, the institute has already been founded and registered, there’s even a building which now has to be heated and so on. The institution will be called the Václav Klaus Institute, and it will be a sort of…institute, a think-tank in English, working on public policy. And I hope the institute will give not only myself but also others the opportunity to speak on contemporary issues, not only here in the Czech Republic but also abroad.”
European Union officials and climate change campaigners are no doubt looking forward to not being on the receiving end of his acidic comments, but they could perhaps be in for a disappointment. Displaying what his detractors would say is his typical false modesty, Václav Klaus said he would continue to speak on European and global affairs.
“I have to admit I’m not very happy that the institute will bear my name, but a number of foreign friends said no – it has to have your name on it. It might be clear to people here in the Czech Republic, but for the world, it has to be the Vaclav Klaus Institute, otherwise people won’t know what it is, so in the end I agreed. So I do intend to speak about European and international politics, because I’ve been doing it all this time. You mentioned global warming – well, my book on global warming – A Blue, Not Green Planet - has been published in 20 countries around the world in 20 different languages. So the name Václav Klaus has a certain resonance, and wherever I go in the world people have read it.”