Archive for Sunday, February 3, 2008

Economics professor makes run for Czech presidency

February 3, 2008

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— As the U.S. presidential race heats up, a University of Michigan professor is focusing his attention on an election of a different kind.

Jan Svejnar, who has spent years guiding students in his role as a public policy and economics professor, says he's ready to make a real-world impact as the next president of the Czech Republic.

"Being a president is sort of the utmost public policy one could have," he said. "It kind of naturally dovetails the kind of professional work I do."

Svejnar, 55, served as an economic adviser to former Czech President Vaclav Havel and has Havel's backing, but he faces an uphill battle in Friday's election for the largely ceremonial post.

Not only is Svejnar trying to unseat an incumbent, Vaclav Klaus, he also is battling against criticism of his U.S. ties, which aren't viewed as an asset in the race.

His friends and colleagues on Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, however, are thrilled with Svejnar's candidacy.

"People think it's cool that a professor - somebody that they know - could be directly involved in running a country," said Nick Powers, an economics Ph.D. student at Michigan who studied under Svejnar.

Svejnar's wife, Katherine Terrell, says she and her husband don't have high expectations for a victory, but view his run as a means to have an impact on the political process in the Czech Republic.

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