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Abstract: In November 1998, Jan Kasl, a successful architect and erstwhile city councilor, was his party's surprise choice for mayor of Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. A virtual political unknown, Kasl was chosen for the post only after the presiding mayor was rejected by the other political parties in negotiations to form a coalition government. Given Kasl's inexperience and low profile, most observers assumed he would be a quiet figurehead, following in his predecessor's footsteps and toeing the party line. Kasl, however, had different ideas. While a relative newcomer to government, Kasl had long been frustrated by what he viewed as the opaqueness of city operations, and angered by suspected abuses by those in power. Soon after his appointment, Kasl vowed to do his best to open up municipal government and stop the conflicts of interest, lack of accountability, and questionable deals he believed had damaged the image and effectiveness of City Hall. To do so, though, he would have to figure out how to overcome significant institutional and political obstacles without causing a political backlash that could stymie all progress, or even force him from office. Is it better for a leader with a reform agenda to confront antagonists and rely on public support to force change? Or would a behind-the-scenes, coalition-building strategy be the more pragmatic and effective? Or does successful reform borrow from both approaches? In addition to these leadership issues, this case provides a window into the political life of post-socialist Eastern Europe--the so-called New Europe--and provides a vehicle for analysis of the question of what is the best structure for local government in a newly-democratizing (and decentralizing) state.
Learning Objective: This case is designed to support discussions both about reforming political leadership generally and anti-corruption efforts, particularly.
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Robert G. Wilmers Local & State Government Case Studies Fund