TOP 09 again elected Markéta Pekarova Adamová as its leader at the Saturday assembly, and on Sunday the party lost its honorary chairman and co-founder Karel Schwarzenberg.
Many party members referred to him in their speeches at the Diet. They wished him well from a distance to the Vienna hospital. Instead of a gong summoning the members to the hall, a honking sound sounded like his favorite hunt. And a two-color bowtie hung everywhere as a party logo.
Is this all that is left of the prince in TOP 09? Definitely not, although it is also true that Topka is a different party today than the one founded by Karel Schwarzenberg and Miroslav Kalousek in 2009.
Not only because it is a completely different time and atmosphere than it was fourteen years ago, which brings completely new problems and challenges. Not only because younger voters today emphasize quite different topics. Mainly because it is actually impossible to replace the personalities of Karel Schwarzenberg and Miroslav Kalouska, even with all their faults.
Karel Schwarzenberg died
A member of a famous noble family, he was born on December 10, 1937 in Prague, but spent a considerable part of his life in involuntary exile.
After returning after 1989, he worked as chancellor of Václav Havel, was a senator and foreign minister. He died on November 11, 2023 in Vienna.
In addition to the fact that both liked to laugh at the same jokes with which they constantly glossed over politics, they had what is rare today: political courage. Schwarzenberg rather verbal, he did not hesitate to pull out a vulgar expression when he had to “sit like an ass on a pot”, and the aristocrat’s mouth sounded cute. And Kalousek was never afraid to do unpopular actions – cut corners and even go to the crowd for a slap among angry trade unionists.
The prince’s message at the TOP 09 Diet was felt in the moments when foreign policy and human rights were discussed. The sentiment after Miroslav Kalouska’s performance and output was also noticeable. Less so after his main ideal, i.e. budgetary responsibility.
Both founders felt that the party under the leadership of Markéta Pekarová Adamová was going in a slightly different direction than they had put it in their imaginary DNA. It occurred to them that TOP 09 is becoming a liberal party for the people of Prague. Which seemed to underline the sumptuous scenery of the Diet in Prague’s Clarion Hotel, evoking a big gathering of big parties. The Topolánky ODS used to hold congresses here, whose godfathers demonstrated their power here by paying five thousand coins at the bar…
Vondra: He was our diplomacy teacher
“The last cavalier has left,” reacted to the death of his friend, his son’s godfather and a colleague from the time of Václav Havel’s presidency, the current MEP for the ODS, Alexandr Vondra.
“We first met sometime in 1987, when I still had my passport, before it was taken away, and I went to a human rights conference in Krakow on behalf of Charter 77. He was there at the head of the Helsinki group,” he recalled.
The difference between the pair of founders is how each expressed their frustration. Karel Schwarzenberg was, of course, a conservative, so he did not understand, for example, the chairperson’s emphasis on marriage for all as a key issue. But he kept silent because he liked Markéta Pekarová Adamová.
He wanted to let her do it her way. He didn’t want to be eternally dissatisfied with a parent who berates his offspring for life every Sunday lunch. Moreover, he saw that she too needed quite a bit of courage to last in politics at all. After all, Pekarová Adamová drives a large part of the public to insanity, even as a woman she is repeatedly the target of the most obscene insults and threats.
On the contrary, Miroslav Kalousek has been publicly and quite loudly expressing his dissatisfaction with the direction of “his” party for a long time. He reproached the successor for the alleged resignation of budgetary responsibility, and described the announced savings as government propaganda lying to the people. At times he threatened that he had the right to destroy the party he founded as well. In the end, however, he also evaluated that it was not worth it and that he would leave the top in the hands of his successors. So that he doesn’t look like a classic embittered ex-chairman who has not come to terms with leaving and losing influence.
That is why Miroslav Kalousek did not even speak at the TOP 09 assembly on Saturday, he watched the proceedings from the last row intended for guests – and left the meeting after noon. The members of the party immediately resolved in the corridors that it was not just like that. And that the old fox is definitely up to something. They had fun with it and for fun guessed if Kalousek was preparing a new “eseróchko” of his own, i.e. SRO – some side of budgetary responsibility.
TOP 09, like all Czech political parties, has a problem with a lack of “cadres”, it cannot attract enough interesting and inspiring people. Karel Schwarzenberg repeatedly reproached himself for this in the last years of his life. At Saturday’s parliament, two new and interesting faces from the parliamentary club got into the party’s innermost leadership: Ondřej Havel, who is dealing with the decline of education, and Martina Ochodnická, who is fighting for the conditions of women taking care of children.
But that’s not enough. TOP 09 likes to present itself as the party that promotes the transformation of the economy and a quick jump on modern trends. In this way, he wants to distinguish himself from the political competition, which often remembers long past times out of nostalgia. If the country is to be credible in its struggle for reforms and modernization, it must have a person in its closest leadership who will authentically and passionately promote it.
For example, someone like the erudite TOP 09 MEP Luděk Niedermayer, who lacks the ability to passionately convince and electrify crowds about his vision. The magic of Karel Schwarzenberg and the strength of Miroslav Kalouska was that – at least in the early days of TOP 09 – they were able to find such people, persuade them and place them in visible key positions.