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Jan Svejnar
  Jan Svejnar

Ross School Professor Running for Czech Presidency

1/14/2008 --

Economist Jan Svejnar, who fled his homeland's communist government in 1970, believes the Czech Republic is ready for change.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---With the backing of the Social Democratic Party, Jan Svejnar, a professor at the Ross School of Business, is challenging incumbent Vaclav Klaus in the current presidential election in the Czech Republic.

"I think there is an issue now where many of the people feel it is time for a change, that the president should be more pro-European," says Svejnar, the Everett E. Berg Professor of Business Administration and a professor of business economics and public policy at the Ross School.

The Czech president is not elected by popular vote. A secret ballot determines which candidate holds majorities within both houses of the bicameral parliament, which has 281 members. Party alliances carry considerable, but not decisive, electoral weight. The secrecy of the ballot casts an air of uncertainty over the entire process and keeps the system open to competition even under conditions where alliances may appear to stack up the parliamentary votes favorably for one candidate.

"In the last election, the favored candidate did not win because members of his own party secretly voted against him," says Svejnar, a Czech native who fled the country's communist government with his family in 1970. He has dual citizenship in the United States and Czech Republic.

Svejnar also teaches in the U-M's Department of Economics and at the Ford School of Public Policy, and directs the Ford School's International Policy Center. From 1996 to 2004, he was executive director of the William Davidson Institute at the Ross School, where he established a leading research and outreach program on business and economic policy issues relating to the transition and emerging market economies.

Svejnar has maintained his ties to the Czech Republic. Beginning in 1989, he served as one of the top economic advisers to then-president Vaclav Havel for nearly a decade. In 1991, he founded the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education-Economics Institute in Prague to begin training a new generation of post-communist economists. Meanwhile, his research continues to explore the economics of post-communist transitional economies and he has remained a national policy adviser.

If elected president, which has a five-year term, Svejnar will take a leave of absence from U-M, but he plans to come back.

"Upon my return, I think future cohorts of students will be able to get the benefit of studying with a former president," he says.

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847,