Article posted December 14
Ross School of Business Prof. Jan Svejnar officially announced his candidacy for president of the Czech Republic today.
Svejnar could take a leave of absence from the University in February to begin a four-year term as president of his native country.
Svejnar has maintained an influential role in Czech economic policy since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 led to the collapse of the former communist government. Svejnar helped shape the Czech Republic’s free market economy and has since served as an economic advisor to many Czech officials, including former president Vaclav Havel.
Svejnar became an official candidate after he received formal nominations from 10 senators representing major political parties. However, his chances of winning the election still depend on his ability to get the support of parties across the political spectrum.
Because the president is elected by parliament instead of the general public, Svejnar will be working to gain the support of the disparate parties that make up the Czech Republic’s two parliamentary houses.
He will be running against incumbent president Vaclav Klaus, who has the support of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party, which is the parliament’s largest party.
Because the Civic Democratic Party holds 40 of the 81 seats in the senate, Svejnar would need to secure every other vote to gain the majority needed for a victory.
Svejnar is currently garnering support of the Social Democrats, the major left-wing party. The Social Democrats are currently leading in public opinion polls, making Svejnar a formidable candidate according to Michael Kraus, a professor of political science at Middlebury College and a long-time friend of Svejnar.
Kraus said Svejnar would aim to revitalize the Czech economy if elected president of the Czech Republic.
“Svejnar is offering a new vision for his country,” Kraus said. “He believes he can bring more energy and transparency and contribute more based on his experience and international connections.”
The role of the Czech president is largely ceremonial, but if elected, Svejnar would be responsible for appointing the Prime Minister, judges and bank officials.
Svejnar’s wife, Business Prof. Katherine Terrell, says that he would serve as an international statesman and work to revitalize the country’s economic status.
“He feels that he can bring a more modern and technical approach to the government,” Terrell said. “He wants to have more positive dialogue about the Czech Republic’s role in the European Union and the global economy.”
One of Svejnar’s primary goals would be the early adoption of the euro in place of the koruna- the Czech Republic’s native currency. Despite joining the European Union in 2004, incumbent president Vaclav Klaus has resisted efforts to switch.
A graduate of Cornell University and Princeton University, Svejnar holds degrees in economics and industrial and labor relations. His research has focused on economic growth in Eastern Europe and the impact of government policy on the performance of independent companies.
Terrell said University President Mary Sue Coleman is very supportive of Svejnar’s candidacy and that she assured Terrell and Svejnar that their positions at the University will remain intact regardless of the election’s outcome.