Chairman of the ODS and M.P. Petr Fiala, is a professor and does leave a very professorial impression on people. That is until they actually talk to him. Then they will find that he does have emotions as well as a sense of humour. And an immense dedication to winning this year’s elections.
Is the pre-election coalition SPOLU going to last past the elections? Will you work together after the elections or will each party be its own entity?
The SPOLU (translator’s note: “spolu” directly translates to “together”) coalition will act in unison not only during the elections but afterwards too. We have said this loud and clear and nothing has changed. Together with Markéta Pekarová Adamová and Marian Jurečka, we have been saying that the SPOLU coalition’s goal is to change the conditions in our country. We plan to jointly put Czechia back on its feet, and this is not a task that will be done when polling places close their doors. The brunt of our work will be done after the elections.
So if there are no major upsets, the ruling coalition will be composed of the SPOLU and Pirate/STAN coalitions once the elections are over?
It would be best for us if the SPOLU coalition got 50 percent of the votes, of course. Then we would not have to worry about differing opinions... (he laughs) I am a realist, however, so by doing the math, I can tell that we will need to work with other parties. We have to be humble and wait for the voters to decide, to see how much support they will give each party and coalition. We are very open in saying that we plan to win the elections.
What part of your platform is essential and non-negotiable?
There are more than just one, and we have shown our voters during this term that we take our promises seriously and that we keep them. I am certain everyone will remember the super-gross wage being abolished as well as the lowered income tax. We consider this very promise to not raise taxes and to set a debt brake to be essential. Nor will there be any doubt about us being oriented toward the West. I feel that the Vrbětice case has recently shown us again how important membership in the EU and NATO is to our country. And for me personally, the inherent matter of freedom and democracy is also essential. We must not get overwhelmed by bureaucracy. We must not allow the state to become bigger and more cumbersome, and to influence the people’s lives more and more. We need quite the opposite, a state that is smaller in scale, works effectively, and truly serves its people.
What future do you see for yourself in the upcoming pre-election months? Will there be a lot of travelling around the country? Will you have any time left for your personal life, family, hobbies,...?
I travel around the country throughout the entire term, not just before the elections. Meeting people, discussing things, those are very important and actually the most interesting parts of my political work. Unfortunately, covid-19 slowed things down, but I hope that is over now. I am currently travelling all over the country with Markéta, Marian, and other candidates. We are visiting all the regions one by one and introducing the SPOLU platform to the people. We have been talking to entrepreneurs, students, teachers, doctors, employees, seniors, all the people, and we feel a great amount of support and a yearning for change. I am simultaneously visiting towns and villages in the South Moravian Region, where I live and am running for office. There is less time for family and hobbies in the pre-election period, but my family is used to that by now. (he laughs)
Things were looking grim for the ODS in 2013–polling numbers around eight percent, being relegated to the opposition. There was even talk of the party not surviving at all. Now you will be going into the elections fighting for a win. Was it a difficult journey?
It certainly was a difficult journey, but it is not over yet. In 2014, I stated loud and clear that I plan to bring back a strong Right and lead the ODS back to a position in the government. I believe that this plan will come to fruition after this year’s parliamentary elections. The ODS has been through many changes in recent years. We have reinforced our position in the Chamber of Deputies, we are the strongest opposition party. We have four regional council presidents as well as the President of the Senate, we came second in the elections to the European Parliament. We have had to put in a lot of work and effort, nothing was handed to us for free.
You have been in the Chamber for eight years. Has the style of Czech politics changed in those two terms?
The most visible are the scandalous displays certain M.P.’s have put on. Physical conflicts, absolute disrespect for the rules, disregard for other people, those are some of the recent sad stories plain for the whole country to see. But even in the past, not all meetings were polite and sophisticated. Democratic politics represent conflict, which is not wrong in and of itself, but certain M.P.’s take things over the top from time to time. I am troubled by another issue entirely. I can see the talks around individual laws becoming more superficial and flat, which affects the quality of legislation and subsequently the things that end up “falling” on the people’s heads. So many new laws and enactments are also being put into force. Both the government and certain M.P.’s imprudent initiatives are at fault. We are nearing the end of the term and the Chamber still has over 500 bills on its agenda. That is not something we have ever seen before, and it is definitely not a good state of affairs.
Aren’t you a little concerned by the things going on today around the topic of racism, for instance? Would you consider certain actions in this regard to be understandable from a historical standpoint, or are they beyond comprehension? Although, Czechia has been quite calm in this aspect...
You are right, the Czech Republic has been spared in this regard, for a number of reasons. We are one of the most homogenous countries in Europe in terms of nationality and we are also a country without any massive social differences. That is why the topic of racism has a different weight to us than it does to countries with a very diverse social composition or perhaps those with a colonial past. I am known to be opposed to the so-called political correctness, overreacting, and I am an avid proponent of democracy and freedom. Therefore, I view certain actions with apprehension, however well-intentioned they may have been at first. Predominantly because political correctness does not allow us to call things by their rightful names, forces us to use words that are not natural to us, and limits our freedom. On the other hand, let us not underestimate negative things. I loathe racism, and I am very worried about the wave of antisemitism that is currently on the rise in Europe.
You wrote on your Facebook page that, among other things, you are a fan of football and even wanted to be a coach once. Honestly, I cannot imagine you–a professor and rector–with a scarf around your neck, going crazy after your team scores a goal... I assume that you are a fan of Zbrojovka Brno, so you must be a little dispirited, no?
I do like football, and I know how to cheer my team on, but in a quiet way. I enjoy it more as a fascinating game and a clash of different strategies. I do get emotional sometimes, but I do not let it show as much. Watching good football brings me joy and lets me relax. I like to watch the English league on TV, it is fantastic right now. Do not get me started on Zbrojovka this year... (he laughs). But of course, I am a fan!
Petr Fiala, Ph.D., M.A., LL.M., (born September 1, 1964, in Brno) is a professor of politology, rector emeritus of the Masaryk University, M.P., and chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (ODS).
After graduating in Czech language and history from the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University, he started working as a historian in a museum.
In 1990, he established the Department of Politology at the Faculty of Social Studies of the Masaryk University and became its head. He was habilitated (tn: earned the associate professor/docent title) in politology at the Charles University in 1996 and became the director of the International Institute of Political Science at the MU. Six years later, he established the Department of International Relations and European Studies, and the then-president, Václav Havel, appointed him as the first-ever professor of politology in the Czech Republic.
He assumed the role of rector at the Masaryk University in 2004. Three years later, he was one of the first elected members of the Council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
Since 2012, he has been minister of education for one year. He was then elected into the Chamber.
#He is married, and has three children.
A hothead or a cucumber?
Petr Fiala always comes across as a very calm and collected person who thinks his answers through, and never just fires one off under the influence of emotion. Does he truly never blow a fuse and always stay as cool as a cucumber? “This might come as a surprise, but I do have and experience emotions,” he says with a smile. “I am nowhere near as calm on the inside as I may seem on the outside. I just try to control myself. Even the old Czech idiom says that anger is a bad advisor. We all make better decisions with a cool head. When we have time to take a step back and think them through. That applies in real life as well as in politics.”