The presidencies of Miloš Zeman and Petr Pavel differ in a number of aspects, but they have one element in common. The original spokesmen did not survive their first year in office.
Similar to Zeman’s former spokeswoman Hana Burianová, Markéta Řeháková is also retiring in the fall of the head of state’s first year in office. Pavlova’s spokesperson is officially leaving the castle on the last day of October.
Few months ago, however, few would have predicted such a development. During the presidential campaign, Řeháková profiled herself as one of Pavlo’s key collaborators, yet she did not settle her situation.
Nobody wants to talk on the record about the end of the speaker in the president’s office, not even Řeháková herself, who has now withdrawn to her home Brno.
The list of reports from several sources, well-acquainted with the goings-on at the Castle, investigated what was behind the rise and fall of Paul’s first spokesperson. In principle, Markéta Řeháková’s engagement with Pavel was divided into two halves: the first in the campaign, the second at the Castle. While she scored imaginary goals in the first act, she received a red card in the second.
Reinforcements for the campaign
Thirty-year-old Markéta Řeháková originally worked as a journalist in Hospodářské noviny. In 2021, she moved to Semantic Visions, where she specialized in security topics and the field of disinformation and Russian propaganda.
By the way: this analytical firm played a bigger role in Pavlo’s campaign than it might seem at first glance. Semantic Visions co-owners Jan Barta and Dušan Šenkypl sponsored Pavlo’s campaign, another company shareholder František Vrabel was active in the bodies of the association For a safe future, which in 2019 became the basis of Petr Pavlo’s public activities.
Řeháková was brought to the team last May by the then head of the general’s campaign, Pavel Nýdrle, who ended her mission with Pavel after he joined the Castle. Since then, she has not communicated much with the media, except for Řeháková. “I felt good working with her,” Nýdrle recalled for Nauzal last year.
According to her words, she chose her at a time when she needed a specialist not only for communication, but also for strategy and media training – for example, for TV debates. “It was not easy to find such a person on the market, because for most potential applicants it was a risk. They didn’t know if the election would work. I appreciated that Markéta was willing to take risks, to go on a political campaign,” said Nýdrle.
She appreciated Řeháková’s work experience. “For me, they were a guarantee of quality, she was oriented in safety, she knew the biography of Petr Pavel. In addition, she worked as a journalist in the past, so her strength was that she knew what journalists needed and what they were interested in,” added the former head of Pavlova’s campaign.
Other people close to the Castle also appreciate Řeháková’s commitment during the campaign period, analytical skills and tactical preparation of the presidential candidate for heated TV debates and public appearances in the period just before the first and second round of elections.
Paradoxically, her position began to weaken precisely at the moment when Petr Pavel won the election. It was only a few minutes after the votes were counted that Markéta Řeháková in the election staff moderated the performance, the highlight of which was the arrival of the winning candidate on the stage. The speaker let herself get carried away by her emotions, which on the one hand seemed human in the hall, but unprofessional on the outside. Pavel held her then.
“My biggest fear was that it would not harm the president. My plan was not to decide whether he had a competent speaker the day after the election. However, it convinced me that we have a lot of trust between us, we have each other’s backs. I approach public criticism in such a way that I have to learn and continue to work,” said Řeháková in the Off Record program for Nauzal in June.
It was a bad start for her, not only in terms of her image in public (the described scene from the election staff was broadcast live, which was watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers), but also towards the inside of the team. Even then, it was possible to encounter objections to her public presentation within Pavlov’s team.
For example, Petr Kolář, “the president’s sidekick” and influential adviser, was critical of Řeháková, who from the beginning tried to have someone else take the position of the president’s spokesperson. Řeháková did not only hold the role of spokesperson, she also managed the communication department in the Office of the President of the Republic.
Over time, some journalists have complained that they do not always receive answers to their questions or in a timely manner. Reservations against her grew stronger within the presidential office, especially from her boss – Chancellor Jana Vohralíková. Criticism was aimed at managerial skills, the chancellor was annoyed that Řeháková did not follow the instructions of her superiors.
It was a vicious circle, because Řeháková considered the chancellor’s reproaches to be unpleasant pressure. The chemistry between them did not work, and other employees of the president’s office began to express reservations about the speaker internally.
Petr Pavel kept a protective hand over Řeháková for a long time. Especially considering what she did for him during the election campaign. However, at the turn of August and September, the situation at the Castle became unsustainable for her. After the confusion in communication regarding the (non)signature of the president under the pension amendment, criticism within the KPR accumulated to such an extent that even President Pavel has already heard it.
At the beginning of September, Řeháková first ended up as director of the communication department, remaining in the position of spokesperson. However, it was clear from the chancellor’s e-mail that the office sent out to journalists that it would not last long.
In it, Vohralíková immediately thanked Řeháková for the work done and wished her much success in her professional and private life. Řehák’s year-and-a-half-long mission with Petr Pavel was officially fulfilled on Halloween.
From Wednesday, former journalist and diplomat Vít Kolář, who until recently led the division of corporate relations in CT, will lead the communications department. The Castle has not yet announced who will be the speaker.