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Czech candidate for 2018 presidential run says social exclusion is a topic of his campaign

4.11.2016 7:35
Michal Horáček (PHOTO: Repro video)
Michal Horáček (PHOTO: Repro video)

The writer Michal Horáček will run for President of the Czech Republic in the next elections at the beginning of 2018. He announced his candidacy yesterday at a press conference in Prague.

Horáček said he wants to be an independent candidate and cover the costs of his campaign himself and that he has set up a special transparent account for those purposes. His candidacy is to be "radically transparent" in that he is publishing his lustration certificate, his college transcript, his tax returns, and medical reports on his health status.

One of his nine main topics will be addressing social exclusion. "I believe that public service in the office of the President can be performed in a more competent way, in a more decent way, and in a way that is more responsive to people of all opinions than it has been so far. I believe that each of us needs respect from other members of our community, but primarily, the head of state must show respect for the citizens," he said when introducing his campaign.

Horáček said he does not want to use an advertising agency to represent him and that he plans to bear the costs of the campaign together with his wife, without any financial contributions from either citizens or political parties. He estimated his current assets in an interview with news server Seznam Zprávy at roughly CZK 400 million (EUR 15 million).

The candidate plans to spend only the amount on his campaign that is permitted by law. "The law permits spending CZK 40 million [EUR 1.5 million] during the first round and theoretically CZK 10 million [EUR 370 000] in the second round. That's CZK 50 million [EUR 2 million] altogether. I am concerned that amount of money is not all that has been used during campaigns. Nevertheless, I will strictly hold to the letter of the law," he said.

Education is the solution to social exclusion

On his website, in addition to other materials, Horáček has published the nine main topics that he wants to focus on in the long term. One of them is "Poverty and the vicious cycle of social exclusion" (the others are education, entrepreneurship and prosperity, equality of women and men, immigration, the military, relations with Europe and the rest of the world, technology and transportation).

 "During the past 10 years, the number of socially excluded localiites in the Czech Republic has doubled (today there are more than 600 of them). These are the 'ghettos' that we so frequently point to in connection with immigrants in Western Europe. The people living in these places have significantly lower chances of applying themselves on the labor market, making use of public services, or participating in political decision-making in a meaningful way. In many cases, the people I have just mentioned are Czech Romani people - and their integration must be considered a long-term priority for all of society, because this problem is the proverbial ticking time bomb - but it is far from the case that only Romani people are in this predicament," the candidate's website says.

The solution, in his view, is primarily education and equal chances for all. "The most important of the many keys we must use to open up this '13th chamber' of our life together is education. After all, most adults in excluded localities have only completed primary school [ninth grade] at the most. Without the Czech education system providing an equal chance at an education to all, not everybody will be able to join the common Czech effort at achieving greater material and spiritual prosperity. We all will eventually pay the price for our lack of a long-term strategy, and mainly for our lack of seriously-designed efforts to gradually integrate the socially excluded back into our society," the candidate said.

Horáček wants to change the Czech Republic "from a country of sneers to a country of smiles"

It is not yet clear whether Horáček will be running against the current head of state for office. Czech President Miloš Zeman has said he will announce next March whether or not he will attempt a second presidential run.

Businessman Igor Sládek and the civic activist and doctor Marek Hilšer have also announced their candidacies. Yesterday Horáček told journalists he will not be raising money but that he will be asking for volunteers to aid him with collecting the signatures from citizens in the regions to facilitate his candidacy.

Horáček said he will collect signatures until a decision is made about any eventual changes to the law governing the presidential elections. "I won't be giving out free pastry, I don't need a logo, I do not intend to hire a press spokesperson, I will contact you all on my own responsibility," he said.

The candidate said he also does not want to ask for support from MPs and Senators, which is another way of registering his candidacy. "If I can't collect 50 000 signatures, then my candidacy wouldn't make sense anyway," he explained.

His main motto is that he wants to change the Czech Republic "from a country of sneers to a country of smiles". He has refused, however, to define himself as in opposition to Zeman.

"I am not running against other people, I am running for something. We should honor the ideals that I have presented here more," he said.

The candidate said Slovak President Andrej Kiska is one of his inspirations. He announced his candidacy at the Old Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Prague neighborhood of Bubeneč, which is a national historic landmark.

"This is symbolic. This building is admired by the entire world, it was built for the people with great vision at a time of peace, yet despite that, the architect was also thinking about future dangers," he said.

The candidate summarized the basic starting points of his program as covering nine main circles. "The essential starting point is that the Czech Republic is part of a broader area, especially the European Union and NATO. We have our alliances and we must be good allies, not freeloaders," he said.

The author said he has been considering his candidacy since April. "I wanted to honestly find out what the citizens believe, to know what they expect from the President," he explained.

Horáček said yesterday that his campaign has now officially begun. Last week the Office of the Czech President criticized him for what it said was an exploitation of the assembly on the Old Town Square in Prague to mark the state holiday of 28 October, an event that Horáček moderated and that was held as an alternative to the official celebrations at Prague Castle.

The 64-year-old has worked as a dishwasher, a journalist, and a lifeguard and has also authored several books, but people are most aware of him as an entrepreneur and a lyricist. During the socialist era he tried out the profession of bookmaker and later was a co-founder of the Fortuna betting office.

In 2004 he and his three partners sold the business to the Penta company for approximately CZK 2.4 billion [EUR 90 million], he told Seznam Zprávy. For many years he collaborated with the composer Petr Hapka, whose songs have been performed by some of the biggest starts in the Czech musical world.

In the autumn of 1989 he co-founded the Most (Bridge) initiative together with Michael Kocáb, which began a dialogue with the communists then in power. "I never wanted to do politics, though," he later said.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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