24 November 2006

Czech Young Conservatives

The following short article by yours truly is on Czech Young Conservatives is on Conservative Home today.

"The dominant party on the right of Czech politics is the ODS. In July 2006 the ODS leader Mirek Topolanek agreed to tie up with the Conservative Party to form a new reform grouping in the European Parliament in 2009. The ODS is by reputation the party of the cities and the educated middle classes, but is also the largest party in terms of overall support. Margaret Thatcher is a great heroine to most ODS activists and politicians who are in the round fairly Euro-sceptic. Only last week, ODS member President Klaus described himself as “deeply frustrated with the EU”.

The young conservative wing of ODS is called Mladi Konzervativci and was established in 1991. Its members number 500 across 35 branches. In a country of nine million these are hardly stratospheric numbers, but I am told they are growing. It is estimated the membership is 80% male. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of members are either at high school or university.

Nevertheless, the recent story of ODS’s youth wing is not without its controversy. One activist described how, from his perspective, his interest in discussing policies and attending conferences placed him within a minority amongst the membership. Rather than being a radical and challenging voice, it is felt by some that the movement is controlled to some extent by party loyalists establishing a pliant political power base. Recently a maverick branch of Young ODS based in Prague was disbanded by the leadership in a storm of acrimony. These youngsters, some of whom I was introduced to at the “Czech & Slovak Right-Wing Weekend Conference” still remain active in politics, but are not affiliated to their natural party following these clashes.

It’s a personal view but based on my reading of the attitudes and values of young Czechs, there is a bright future for the right. However, this must be set against the overall political landscape. Since the heady days when democracy was restored following the fall of Communism, Czech voters express a growing political cynicism as evidenced by falling voter turnouts. One can’t help but feel that the young are particularly likely to feel powerless and disengaged in this climate. What will be fascinating to watch is whether the type of free-thinking and radical debate traditionally associated with youth can occur within the existing party organizations or whether other levers will be used by the young to have their voices heard."


james higham said...

One can’t help but feel that the young are particularly likely to feel powerless and disengaged in this climate.

I am also in a former Soviet republic and there is zero political consciousness here. There is huge sex and shopping consciousness.

Ellee said...

Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, at least the choice is there,

James, there is a huge sex and shopping consciousness in the UK too!