Activist and ex-presidential candidate Dr Marek Hilšer announces run for the Senate

Czech doctor and political activist Marek Hilšer first made headlines in 2014, when he and a colleague stripped to the waist at a government press conference to protest Russian aggression towards Ukraine and show support for the EU and Nato. Now a household name – having staged a bid for the presidency in a grassroots campaign – he is running for the Senate, to represent Prague districts 2 and 3. I spoke to Dr Hilšer after he officially announced his candidacy on Tuesday at a Prague café.

Marek Hilšer, photo: Ondřej TomšůMarek Hilšer, photo: Ondřej Tomšů “I was an independent candidate in the presidential election, and I want to continue in this way. One reason is I’d like to inspire people who don’t feel like joining a party to participate in politics. And I think that this story can be a strong motivation for them. The other reason is that the political scene in the Czech Republic, I would say, is not very stable. We don’t know it will develop, which parties will survive, which parties won’t survive. So I don’t want to ‘ride a dead horse’. … It doesn’t mean that I am against political parties – not at all; I know that they are very important. But in this situation, at this time, I don’t feel like running for just one or two parties.”

You also mentioned the general political climate here, where there are ‘extremist’ parties in parliament – whether labelled as such by the Ministry of Interior or not –and also a kind of lethargy, a lack of participation. Have you done any polling that shows your chances?

“I didn’t do any polling. But I was travelling around the Czech Republic and I felt the strong support from some people who fear the development of democracy here. I don’t have the money for polling, and I don’t want to go that way. I have some ideas and I want to present them. If they will be acceptable for the voters, they will elect me. If not, they won’t. This is my point of view on politics. You know, not to have polling, if I understand you properly, to see what the opinions are and acting on the results. I think we can see this in our prime minister [Andrej Babiš], who changes his mind according to every poll. I don’t want to do such politics. I want to present stable ideas and if they will win, they will win. If not, it doesn’t make sense for me.”

The first programme priority that you mentioned today had to do with education. Could you expand on that?

Illustrative photo: Lucie Hochmanová / Czech RadioIllustrative photo: Lucie Hochmanová / Czech Radio “I just briefly want to say that in the Czech Republic, we can feel that basic education is not progressing very well in comparison with other countries, for example, Finland. There is much discussion about how to resolve this situation, and I think that we must form a group of people, of politicians, who will strongly promote this idea – follow this idea to reform Czech basic education, and I would like to be involved in this. This is my political task, I feel. I know it is a long distance run, but in my heart, I feel that we must do it.”

“In the medical sphere… I think we have to resolve the problem of the Czech healthcare system that we don’t pay attention now to the problems of elderly people. We must think to the future. Also, the doctors are becoming older and older, and not enough new ones are coming. Those problems must be resolved because, in five to ten years, there will be a big problem.”