Klaus condemns Social Democrats and Austrian politicians in Radio Prague interview

04-06-2002

For the third time in his political career, Vaclav Klaus has a strong chance of becoming Czech Prime Minister. Such is the delicate balance of power on the political scene, that even if his right-of-centre Civic Democrats fail to win next week's parliamentary elections, they could still find themselves wielding considerable influence after the poll. Mr Klaus has also been tipped as a future president. The guru of the economic reforms of the early 90s, Vaclav Klaus is loved and hated in equal measure with his blend of popular rhetoric and economic liberalism, and a personal style that opponents condemn as arrogant. When Radio Prague caught up with Mr Klaus at a pre-election rally, he was in characteristic form - flattering his supporters with charm and smiles and brushing off critics with withering sarcasm. Radio Prague's David Vaughan asked him what he saw as the key issue in the election, and Mr Klaus reserved his fiercest rhetoric for the ruling Social Democrats, which, paradoxically, are only in power thanks to a tolerance pact with his own party.

Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTKVaclav Klaus, photo: CTK "The key issue is whether we will continue in the quasi-socialist way, as the Czech socialists or Social Democrats tried to do in the last four years, or whether we will be able to change the course of the country and to start again with a free society based on liberal principles."

Do you think that none of the remaining parties offer that kind of guarantee?

"I'm afraid there is no other party which feels that strongly the dangers."

Are you worried about the possibility that the result of the election might be inconclusive and you might have to enter a very long process of complex talks?

"I can imagine that because the country is divided and the current election law doesn't help. I think we are condemned again to difficult balancing in a very complicated coalition scheme."

Some have accused you of being populist, for example in stressing the problems of Czech-German relations in terms of the Sudeten Germans. Others have accused you of letting the genie out of the bottle in bringing up the question of reforming asylum law and of stemming what some would say is a non-existent threat of a huge influx of migrants.

"Well, we didn't say anything about a huge influx of immigrants. This is a phrase you have got I don't know where. I have never said anything like that, but for us the claims of some politicians in Austria and Germany are very real, not fictitious. This is the majority of politicians in those countries. It's everyone in Austria, starting with the president, prime minister, foreign minister and president of the parliament, so the issue is very real and it's very dangerous for the integrity of the country. It's an attempt to rewrite history. It's an attempt to change the result of the Second World War and this is something which I will fight till the end of my life."

04-06-2002