Libuše Benešová: Loyalty counts
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
The former chair of the senate came back into the spotlight during the presidential elections, when there was some speculation that Václav Klaus wanted to take her along to the castle. So far Libuše Benešová hasn’t accepted the offer, because as an ODS representative she doesn’t want to harm the non-partisan image of the president. She is said to be satisfied with her job as ODS’s main manager.
FOR NEARLY 20 years Libuše Benešová (54) focused on the influence of folklore on Czech literature at the Academy of Science, until the regime changed. However, after 1989 she started getting involved in public affairs – she was the mayor of the municipality of Lešany, the head of the Prague West district office, the deputy to finance minister Kočárník (1995-1997), and, since 1996, a senator. The turning point came in the fall of 1997, when the scandal around fake ODS sponsors arose, resulting in the so-called “Sarajevo assassination”. Benešová stood up for Klaus and says she was absolutely certain that he had no inkling of the hanky-panky going on in his party. “I think loyalty is important, not just to others, but also to your own opinions,” she says. “The ODS had problems, but Klaus played no part in them.”
Her star then started rising. In December 1997 she was named the ODS vice-chair, and the next year the “Opposition Agreement” between the ODS and the ČSSD resulted in her chairmanship of the senate. Benešová was at the top for two years, then after unexpectedly losing her senate seat to the independent Helena Rögnerová and losing the senate chairmanship, she returned to civilian life in 2000. How did her loss of influence and perks affect her? “I was never dazzled by politics, so things didn’t change much. I don’t need to be always in the public eye, I don’t appear on discussion programs on TV with the same opinions every time, and I don’t have any bodyguards shadowing me,” she says.
Until the 2002 elections Benešová served as vice-chairwoman of the party (an unpaid job) and published various materials. She was then named the main ODS manager, with responsibility for all of its 132 employees and for coordinating functions throughout the republic. Last year ODS collected the greatest amount of sponsorship gifts in the party’s history – CZK 68 million. “I’m glad I know what it’s all about now,” she says, adding that her goal is to groom a successor who can ensure the effective and transparent functioning of the party.