You do not talk to us, criticize the young parties of the ODS leadership. But Fiala changed that, they say

As usual, middle-aged men prevailed at this year’s ODS Congress. This is exactly what young party members criticized at the previous assembly two years ago, that the party has no successor and no new generation. But now they say a lot has changed since then. The party has been more open to them, but there is still room for improvement. They point out, for example, that there is no responsible woman.

“The ODS has changed and opened up in a short time, young people are visible on the candidates, there is a more shared atmosphere in the party,” said Nikola Šafránek, 35, a member of the local association of the party in Prague. 4, Saturday at the 30th ODS Congress. He met with the editors of Aktuálně.cz immediately after Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s scheduled re-election as party leader. According to Šafránek, Fial’s approach plays a part in the fact that, as he says, the party has started thinking about the younger generation.

At the last convention of the Civic Democrats two years ago, the same young delegate spoke in a completely opposite spirit. In a strong speech from the lectern, he told the party it was not making room for younger members, and he calculated what he thought needed to change.

“Look among us, the vast majority of educated, conservative uncles and aunts are sitting here. We are not attractive enough for a well-educated young generation to join us. Let’s educate new candidates. Only then that we will be able to interest voters. who we are right now. they see it as an unattractive and archaic party,” Šafránek urged party members.

Immediately after the criticism, Petr Fiala invited him to a meeting with other young parties. “We spoke in detail and directly about how we perceive the ODS. I told him that I did not like the way the old structures kept their functions to themselves and the young people with us. They did not like Fiala was happy for the feedback and said it would change that, which pleasantly surprised us,” he describes.

We worked for free to make the party a success

It was since then, he said, that the party’s attitude towards young people began to change visibly. “Today, the elders are going to say to themselves: ‘Let’s put the young people first'”, which I have never experienced before”, adds Šafránek. As proof, he claims that he himself could reach the city council. of Prague 4 after the municipal elections this year. “After all, Fiala also married a young spokesman, Václav Smolka”, stresses Šafránek.

Tomáš Lehečka, a representative of young members of the ODS in the Pilsen region, also talks about the changes. “After the last elections, the ODS slowly started to realize that it wouldn’t really do without young people. The way we participated in the election campaign showed that we had a place in the party,” he says. .

Representatives of the Young Civic Democrats, an ODS-affiliated platform, also reminded them in a speech to Congress on Friday that they had always supported the party. “We showed up at the ODS last year in the pre-election period, we worked for it to be a success without the right to a royalty”, they underlined.

Despite the fact that young people speak of a more accommodating party, the composition of the leadership does not match. All the men in the presidency are over 45. President Petr Fiala is 57, first vice-president Zbyněk Stanjur is a year older.

However, the young parties understand that the ODS must first raise its supporters, which will not happen overnight. “If two years ago she only received comments that they are young people around, it will take time for them to raise politicians. If you put someone inexperienced in power, it “is wrong. Young people should gradually learn from experienced matadors,” he says Nikola Šafránek. According to him, Fiala, who has led the party for eight years, did not try to open it up to young people before because no one had warned him about it.

How Youth Associations Work

Youth associations have mainly served the parties in the past to train their political successors. Most Czech parties have similar organisations. Parent parties often support these groups also financially. Young supporters organize meetings to attract the younger generation to politics, but they also help their parent parties in election campaigns, for example.

Two associations associating young people interested in politics cooperate with the ODS. The Young Civic Democrats were founded in 2017. However, they are not a classic youth association as they are directly part of the ODS. Unlike other youth factions, they don’t even have elected leaders. Any member or sympathizer of the ODS under the age of 35 automatically becomes a member of the Young Civic Democrats.

However, the party leaders of the Civic Democrats in the past have often drawn from the young established conservatives, who have been operating since the 1990s. Former prominent players in national politics, the former Chief Justice Minister of the ODS and later TOP 09 chairman Jiří Pospíšil or former ODS deputy chairman and interior minister Ivan Langer, also emerged from their ranks.

When a woman has it, she succeeds

Andrea Adámková, the coordinator of the Young Civic Democrats in Prague, points out that there are no women in the leadership of the party. “I see it both in politics in general and in the leadership of the ODS. Women bring nobility and emotions,” he says. The view from the upper tier of the rostrum of the politicians seated in the main hall during the weekend congress in the O2 universum hall in Prague also confirmed the small variety spoken of by young people. Middle-aged men predominated.

However, according to young members, their low penetration is due to the low representation of women in party leadership. “When a woman is really capable, she makes herself known,” says Tomáš Lehečka. Adámková agrees with this. “If women really have it, they will succeed. On the other hand, there are probably fewer women, but really capable, not artificially appointed,” he says.

In 2014, the Center for Public Opinion Research researched why there are few women not only in the ODS but in politics in general. However, the questionnaire survey showed that women are as interested in politics as men and are also members of political parties, accounting for 25-52% of their membership.

According to experts, the problem is that women are much more often confronted with prejudices than men, for example, that working in politics is incompatible with taking care of their family. “It’s such a relic of the past. Even in the case of men, it often happens that they completely sacrifice their personal lives for politics,” STAN’s new elected official Barbora Urbanová told Aktuálně.cz shortly after. the election.

Young people take care of housing or the environment

According to a Youth Speak Up! young people are united by the theme of the environment or affordable housing. The ODS-led coalition ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections promised in a campaign aimed at young voters that it would give space to these issues. However, the issue of affordable housing, for example, almost disappeared after the appointment of the government. The young members of the ODS admit it too.

“There has been a reassessment of priorities. The war in Ukraine has arrived, so everything related to it must be resolved. For example, the housing issue is on the agenda, it will get there,” says Saffron.

Filip Wilczek, 24, from the Moravian-Silesian region, who arrived at the weekend congress as a delegate, also expressed concern over topics that will upset the younger generation. “It will be difficult for us younger people to find a mortgage with a reasonable interest rate. The government needs to address these issues,” he said.

Some ODS politicians also hold conservative views, for example in their approach to same-sex marriages. This is why some young people in Aktuálně.cz polls said before the parliamentary elections that their vote would favor a more liberal coalition of pirates with mayors.

According to Lehečka, however, this is not a problem, as there is a wide range of opinions in the party. “A more conservative opinion does not necessarily discourage young people. Yet I know many more young conservatives than I do, for example, when it comes to homosexuals. I am gay myself, so perhaps I am such proof that there are many currents in the party”, he explains.

Although satisfaction with how the party has evolved since last year’s convention is higher among young members surveyed, they say there is still work to be done. He speaks above all of improving communication between the leadership and the novices of the party.

According to Lehečka, after this year’s congress, the party could also focus more on digitization. “It would be beneficial to simplify and streamline all official processes within the party to make it more attractive to young people. In my opinion, this is one of the things that discourages them and includes, for example, the complexity of join the party,” he concludes.

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