Jan Kalvoda: Career change and image makeover

Photo: Tomáš Kubeš

What happened to the politician with the pipe and the Stalinesque mustache since the eruption of the scandal involving his unauthorized use of a Doctor of Law title? These days, he is satisfied with his law practice, but keeps a sharp eye on politics.

ALMOST NO ONE would recognize him on the street. The mustache has been replaced by a beard, and he’s lost a few kilos. This chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) from 1992 to 1996, former government vice-chairman for legislation, and justice minister has not appeared in the media for a long time, not even at the end of last year, when he offered to pay off a part of ODA’s debts, which KDU-ČSL had pointed to as an obstacle to the further existence of the Quad Coalition. “It was clear that the people’s party was using it as a weak pretext for breaking up the Quad Coalition, and I wanted to make it a bit harder for them. It didn’t work out. The people’s party then carried out a ritualistic public execution of the coalition, thus damaging its prospects in the election,” Kalvoda laments, adding that the public has given up on politicians, because people suspect that their desire for change will remain unrequited after the elections. “I don’t even know whom I’ll vote for. The parties to the ‘opposition agreement’ are merely caricatures of political groupings, and it’s obvious that the politicians don’t put great store in the public trust,” says this former politician who falsely assumed a JUDr. title, and remedied his abuse by resigning from all his positions in December 1996. He says he doesn’t regret it. “Politicians must clearly demonstrate what is right and what isn’t, resigning from high positions should be a matter of course,” Kalvoda opines, refusing to divulge whether or not he has now earned the degree.
After hectic years in politics, when, as he says, politicians were as famous as Karel Gott, he returned to his original profession of counselor-at-law, and now handles commercial, civil, and criminal cases in a law office in the Břevnov distric of Prague. He says he doesn’t rely on contacts with politicians when taking on clients, and he is delighted to have shed his burdensome responsibilities and to be living under less stress. This former politician, who feels that the public saw him as a “nice odd-ball who talked a lot but was incomprehensible,” has no plans for returning to the floodlights, but he admits that he keeps an eye on politics. “I’ve got all the drawbacks of a politician on a pension – I’d love to poke a stick in the bellies of these clownish politicians and point out what they’ve done badly that we did well,” he says with a smile.


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