The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) officially came into being in February 1991 after the break-up of Civic Forum, the driving force of the Velvet Revolution. The party held its establishing congress in April 1991, when the then Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus became party leader, a function he holds to this day. In 1995 it absorbed the far smaller Christian Democratic Party. After parliamentary elections in 1992, the ODS became the senior partner in the ruling right-of-centre coalition and Mr Klaus became Prime Minister. After the June 1996 elections the ODS headed a fragile right-of-centre government, comprised of the same political partners, but reduced to just under half the seats in the House of Deputies. A row broke out inside the ODS in late 1997 following a dispute over the party's funding. This led to the collapse of the coalition government, and some leading party figures seceded from the ODS to establish the Freedom Union. Since the June 1998 parliamentary elections the Civic Democratic Party, which won the second largest number of seats, has tolerated the minority Social Democratic government through a pact known as the "opposition agreement".
Vaclav Klaus (Prime Minister from 1992- Jan.1998, Finance Minister from Dec.1989-June 1992)
63 seats (out of 200), 27.74% of the vote. The party emerged in second place, with around 3.5% fewer votes than the Social Democrats.
Throughout its 11-year history the Civic Democratic Party has been dominated by its leader Vaclav Klaus. He is one of the Czech Republic's most charismatic politicians, loved and hated in equal measure. As an economist he firmly embraces the free market. On many issues his vision comes close to that of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom Mr Klaus often quotes as his role model. The ODS instigated many of the economic reforms of the early and mid 1990s and was the instigator of the "voucher privatisation" scheme, which aimed to create a mass share-owning society. The party retains a political vision of minimal state intervention and low taxation, coupled with a reduction of state bureaucracy. As part of their pre-election campaign the Civic Democrats are calling for a set rate of income tax at 15%. The party leadership is in favour of Czech membership of the European Union but is heavily critical of increased European integration. This "Euroscepticism" is also reflected in the party's views on defence, which focus on the trans-Atlantic link.
The party appeals strongly to the middle class and to entrepreneurs, and enjoys considerable support in some of the larger cities such as Prague and Brno and among younger voters. It is particularly popular with women.