Actress and civic activist Táňa Fischerová, one of the three female candidates running for president, is selling a dream: she is offering the disgruntled Czech public a vision of a better world. While some see her as a pioneer and a moral authority, others dismiss her as a hopeless idealist who would be eaten alive in the harsh world of high-level politics.
Táňa Fischerová readily admits that running for president was never one of her dreams. The sixty-five-year-old actress spent most of her professional life on stage and entered politics a few years after the Velvet Revolution, believing that civic initiative and personal responsibility were essential to shaping a better future.
In 2002 she won a seat in the lower house, running as an independent on a right-wing coalition ticket, and despite losing many of her illusions in the wheeling and dealing of everyday politics she served her full term in office. However, she remained an outsider in the political milieu and her later attempts to re-enter high-level politics proved unsuccessful.
In 2006 she ran for a seat in the Senate with support from the Green Party, but failed to win enough votes. In the 2010 general elections she headed the civic movement Klíčové hnutí which gained a mere 0.2 percent of the vote. The actress re-intensified her work for charities, cooperating with the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel foundation Vision 97, Amnesty International and Remedium and supporting numerous goodwill projects.
Her presidential campaign, launched at the eleventh hour, is a low-budget affair, run with the help volunteers and Táňa Fischerová says that people know who she is and what she stands for:
“My life is an open book. People know who I am and what I did over the years in politics and in civic associations. I am offering who I am and what I stand for and it is up to the people to make a choice.”
Of the nine candidates, Táňa Fischerová has the most far-reaching ambitions. Others have promised to fight corruption: she wants to change the entire system, aiming for a socially-just, environmentally-friendly society based on traditional values.
Quizzed mercilessly by reporters about how she intends to achieve this vision, Ms. Fisherova remains cool and collected, saying she does not have all the answers and merely wants to be instrumental in triggering broad public and political debate on changes that need to be made. She moreover rightly points out that the president’s powers are restricted and the president’s role is to provide a vision rather than effect change.
“We are simply offering possible alternate solutions to problems. The state of our society is not good. We are laboring under an economic crisis and face an environmental crisis. Clearly there is a need for change and we are offering possible ways of going down a different road.”
Among her more-publicized visions is a communal way of life involving the notion that land should belong to municipalities who would rent it out to those who put it to the best possible use for the good of the community, such as growing local produce instead of importing it. The idea has raised hackles, but Fisherová rejects the notion that this would mean nationalization arguing that the land could be bought by civic associations and groupings for that purpose. Her critics accuse her of being a dreamer with no clear concept of what she wants or how to go about it. Political analysts say there is a serious risk that she could become a puppet in the hands of her advisors.
But at least 80,000 people who supported her candidacy are willing to take her word for it, on the argument that the present direction of Czech politics and society is untenable. What direction this change would take and who she would cooperate with in trying to bring it about remain open questions, with Fischerová refusing to be pigeon-holed.
“I have a right-wing sense of responsibility and I am socially aware which is a leftist trait. If you really need to call me anything, then call me centrist.”
Táňa Fischerová may not be a hot candidate for the presidential post and many claim she lacks the political savvy required for the job, but one thing she has from both supporters and critics is a huge amount of respect.