Petr Fiala: Czech PM putting political science into practice

Prague (AFP) – Petr Fiala, whose centre-right government took office Friday in the Czech Republic, was the country's first political science professor after the fall of communism and is now tasked with putting theory into practice.


The private, bespectacled 57-year-old is on the biggest mission of his life after leading the centre-right Together alliance to a narrow election win in October.

Together -- Fiala's right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS), the smaller centrist Christian Democrats and centre-right TOP 09 parties -- defeated the populist ANO movement of outgoing billionaire prime minister Andrej Babis.

"We have brought the Czech Republic a chance for a better future. This is change, we are change, you are change," Fiala told his supporters after the vote.

Together has teamed up with a grouping of the centrist Mayors and Independents with the Pirate Party to clinch a 108-seat majority in the 200-member parliament.

Fiala reaped praise as a skilled negotiator last week after persuading Czech President Milos Zeman to change his mind about one minister in his cabinet, a rare occurrence given Zeman's reputation for stubbornness.

A James Bond fan and a former amateur footballer, Fiala became the country's first political science professor following the fall of communism in 1989.

He started out in politics as a science adviser to the prime minister in 2011 and then a year later became education minister.

He only became a lawmaker after a general election in October 2013.

Fiala joined the ODS a month later and became chairman in January 2014, replacing former prime minister Petr Necas whose government fell in 2013 amid a mistress scandal.

Born in the second Czech city of Brno on September 1, 1964, Fiala was rasied in a conservative family where lunch was served strictly at noon to the ringing of church bells.

"In our family, it was natural that you should have university education, live a cultural life and be interested in public and political affairs," Fiala once said.

"I was brought up in a democratic spirit. For me, democracy and freedom is something I have considered correct since I was a child."

Fiala graduated in Czech language and literature as well as history and worked as a historian and a journalist.

Pragmatic believer

After totalitarian communist rule was toppled in the former Czechoslovakia, Fiala co-founded the department of political science at Masaryk University in Brno.

He led the department from 1993 until 2002 before taking over the international relations and European studies department for two years.

Named the country's first professor of political science in 2002, Fiala held the post of Masaryk University rector from 2004-2011.

He authored several books on politics, religion and history and is sometimes criticised as boring and devoid of emotion.

A pragmatic believer, Fiala was baptised in 1986 when the church was still persecuted under the Communist government.

"Faith means a certain interpretation of the world for me, but it does not have an answer to each situation," Fiala said in an interview.

"The fundamental thing is that man is created as a free being," he added.

Fiala was an active football player until 40. He still loves tennis, shooting, skiing and swimming.

He is also a fan of jazz music.

Fiala married his wife Jana in 1992. They met during the Velvet Revolution in 1989, and Fiala once said a part of their first real date took place at a cemetery.

"My personal life merges with my social life to the extent that I got to know freedom and my future wife in November 1989. And I've loved both ever since."