Josef Laszlo

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His Excellency

Josef Laszlo
Laszlo.png
17th President of Pollona
Assumed office
31 January 2014
Deputy Benjamin Pavlek
Preceded by Petr Rosický
Premiér of Moravia
In office
24 March 2010 – 16 November 2013
Governor Ivan Klement
Deputy Vera Babkov
Preceded by Rudolf Krivka
Succeeded by Jirí Marek
Member of the
Moravian Legislative Assembly
In office
12 September 2009 – 16 Novemeber 2013
Constituency Hoviše-Chabry
Mayor of Cáslav
In office
1 June 2005 – 12 September 2009
Preceded by Jakub Machácek
Succeeded by Hana Tomícko
Personal details
Born 19 April 1973 (age 41)
Kolinka, Bergen-Dárko
Political party Liberal Union
Spouse(s) Aneta Pala
Children Katarína, Victor
Residence Cáslav, Moravia
Alma mater Havel University
Profession Economist
Religion Episcopalian
Signature Josef Laszlo's signature

Josef Hugo Laszlo (born 19 April 1973) is a Pollonan economist and the incumbent President of Pollona. Laszlo, a member of the Liberal Unionist party, was elected President in 2013. 40 when elected, Laszlo is the youngest President in Pollonan history, currently the youngest head of state in Maredoratica. Before his election as President, Laszlo served as the State Premier of Moravia and the mayor of Cáslav, a city in south-eastern Moravia.

Laszlo was a rising star in the Liberal Union before his election in 2013, marked as a young reformer. As a mayor in the early 2000s, he administered sweeping municipal reforms and built a reputation for building coalitions and supporting the disadvantaged. Laszlo broke onto the national spotlight in 2009 after delivering his famous Value of Vanity speech. Laszlo's sharp critiques of corruption in the Moravian government earned him high praise.

Laszlo became as a national party spokesman, and soon-after won a seat in the Moravian Legislative Assembly. From 2010 to 2013 he served as Premiér of Moravia, earning high support from the grassroots of the party. Laszlo organized a successful darkhorse campaign to capture the Liberal Unionist Presidential nomination in 2013.

Critics of Laszlo referred to him as "Average Joe," because of his high value on public opinion. Josef adopted the rebuke as a nickname in the Presidential Election. Laszlo is the first Liberal Unionist President of Pollona in the 21st century, and is the first Liberal to hold the office in 20 years. After the 2013 election, the press nicknamed Laszlo The Little Magician for being able to "conjure popularity." Indeed, since taking office Laszlo's poll ratings have fluctuated between the mid-50s and upper 70%.

Laszlo's tenure as President has stirred talks on normalizing Pollona's foreign relations, and relaxing the country's harsh laws regarding it's German minority. In 2016, President Laszlo announced he would campaign in favor of a constitutional amendment package that would abolish the Odveta system.

Early Life and Education

Josef was born as the second of three children to the Reverend Marcel Jomír and Katerina Laszlo. At the time the Laszlos lived in Kolinka, a commuter town in eastern Bergen-Dárko. Josef grew up in a devout, middle-class family. Reverend Marcel, an Espiscopal priest, administered the town's chapel, while Mrs. Laszlo worked as an office secretary. The Reverend was reportedly well respected by the community, and in 1973 he was appointed a non-partisan alderman by the town. The Laszlo's were also active with the community shelter and charity training schools, meriting special recognition by the county in 1982. In the 1970s Marcel was repeatedly arrested for preaching against the Kaprelek government, twice charged with a "breach of the peace." But given his local popularity, the county court repeatedly dismissed all charges. Josef referred to his father's activism as "a major influence" on his political outlook. As a young child, Marcel enrolled Josef in a private parochial school, where Laszlo was characterized as a shy but academically gifted student.

When Marcel was promoted to Bishop in 1988, the Laszlos moved to a suburb of Lenešice. There, the Laszlos hired the Diederichs, a German family, as help. Both families remain in close contact to this day. Growing older, Josef found his father very distant. This was exacerbated after the Laszlos youngest, Victor, died of drug overdose in 1991. In an interview Josef explained that "Victor's poor health and life choices really took a toll" on his parents. He admitted it was "particularly hard" for Marcel, "as a man of faith."

Josef scored in the 85% percentile on the Academic Placement Exam, earning a scholarship to Havel University. He enrolled in the fall of 1992. At university, Josef's friends described him as "a people person." Laszlo was very active in campus intramural activities, and lead the Student Union for two years. In 1995 he graduated with full honors, obtaining a Bachelors in Economics.

Private Sector Work

Laszlo worked for the insurance brokerage QTLS from 1995 to 1999, before jumping over to the consulting firm Herman & Bailey, headquartered in Cáslav. He worked with a team of analysts for several expansive industries at the height of Pollona's Long Boom. Laszlo's team took part in several successful corporate restructuring movements in the early 2000s, when H & B became a public company on the Brno Stock Exchange. At one point, H & B was called to testify in front of Regional and Federal Select Committees, presenting reports on the effects of tariff reforms for major exporters. In these hard copy reports, Josef was listed as one of five primary contributors.

During this time, Josef was enrolled in Havel University on a fast track Master's program, where he obtained a Masters in Economics and an MBA. It is reported that Josef still holds stock and investment portfolios in both QTLS and H & B.

Political Career

During secondary school and university Josef avoided politics, describing such debates as "inherently gloomy and bitter." He acknowledged voting for a slew of protest parties in his youth before eventually joining the Liberal Unionists. In earlier interviews, he expressed admiration for President Robert Toluka "bold vision and reformist agenda" in the 1980s. Laszlo gave several speeches to the Moravian Liberal Conference in the early 2000s on economic policy and criminal justice reform.

Mayor of Cáslav

In 2004, Laszlo unsuccessfully stood for a seat in Cáslav's Municipal Parliament. Attacked as a young, overly intellectual novice, Josef considered abandoning politics altogether. Laszlo's wife Aneta urged him to turn his attention elsewhere.

Yet in 2005, the Mayoralty of Cáslav came up for election in an open contest. The local party executive, impressed by Josef's oratory and policy research, offered to put his name forward for mayor. At the urgence of his friends, Josef decided to accept. This time, Laszlo let the Liberals capitalize on his youth and extensive policy platform. Conducting a door-to-door campaign, Laszlo called for "young, fresh leadership" in Cáslav. Josef was elected mayor in May 2005, capturing 39% of the vote.

Laszlo's immediate priority as mayor was reforming Cáslav's bureaucratic and archaic development laws. The city streamlined zoning regulations, devolved power to parish councils, codified eminent domain practices, and eliminated special interest carveouts. As a result, the number of private construction permits and completed buildings doubled in his tenure. Over harsh criticism, Laszlo ended tax exemptions for sports complexes, enterprise zones, and quietly abolished zoning discrimination against ethnic German households.

As Mayor, Laszlo economized the education budget (while increasing funding for German schools), abolished water fees, increased the budgets for the Health and Social Welfare departments, opened up broadband access, and canceled expensive building renovations. He popularized open government initiatives like digital city records and taped council meetings.

Laszlo and the city council increased property and business taxes to fund these new programs. These initial actions were controversial and unpopular, while the reforms took many years to implement. In 2008 Laszlo's Liberal Unionist colleagues won an surprise majority on the city parliament. Laszlo kept a public profile as an competent, compassionate Mayor.

Moravian Government

In June 2008, Laszlo was selected as one of the "local government" representatives for the Moravian Senate, the state upper house. He divided his time between sessions of the Moravian State Council in Kralové, and Cáslav. In the summer of 2009, the then Civic-Democrat Premiér was embroiled in the national bribery, contract, and expenses scandals. The Premiér's nominee for Governor, Ivan Klement, was a close friend who allegedly paid cash to receive the appointment (see Cash for Votes).

Laszlo delivered a highly publicized Senate address where he denounced the "sheer lunacy" and "fraud" of the nomination. Josef condemned the Civic-Democratic government for allegedly swindling taxpayers and patronizing voters. He claimed that as Moravians "reviled in misery," the administration was busy "pricing its own vanity." Laszlo's speech galvanized a cross-party anti-corruption alliance. This coalition, exploiting divisions in the administration, had enough political momentum to remove the Civic-Democrats and force a snap election in September 2009.

Laszlo was drafted to stand in his home constituency of Hoviša-Chabry for the September poll. After winning the seat comfortably, he chose to resign as mayor and sit in the Legislative Assembly. Upon leaving the office of mayor, his local approval ratings averaged 55-60%. Meanwhile, the Liberal Unionists decisively won the 2009 Moravian legislative election, its first in 15 years. Journalists dubbed The Value of Vanity Speech and the Moravian election as "The Most Exciting Political Drama of the decade," praising Josef's influence. The incoming Premiér, Rudolf Krivka, appointed Laszlo to the State Cabinet as a minister without portfolio; his party and public profile soared by the end of 2009.

Josef wanted the post of Finance Minister after a few years in office. But in March 2010, Premiér Krivka died unexpectedly which left a large gap in the party organization. With strong support from backbench MLAs, Josef was unexpectedly nominated Premiér on the twelfth ballot. The nomination surprised political leaders, and particularly Laszlo. Josef's wife initially asked him to reconsider the offer.

In his first public address as Premiér, Laszlo called for a "period of calm" and "a fresh start" following years of traumatic scandals. Josef appointed a Cabinet which contained a large number of outsiders and think-tank advisers. Laszlo's government introduced lobbying, anti-corruption, and accountability legislation within months of office, enacting most stringent system in the country. He was given the "People's Advocate Award" in 2012 for his efforts, but found it difficult to work with party stalwarts. Also during his Premiership, Laszlo sponsored a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, and abolished cable monopolies. In 2013, his government launched initiatives introducing "choice" and "accountability" in government services with a Taxpayers Charter.

After 2010, Premiér Laszlo accepted a role as a LU party spokesman, giving lectures and TV interviews for the national party. Laszlo considered retiring from politics again at his wife's insistence, as his time away put stress on the family.

Election 2013

In June of 2013, Laszlo launched his candidacy for President. Many in the party felt his prospects were slim in the August convention, as he was the 2nd or 3rd choice of most activists. At the convention, the Liberal Unionists were fiercely split between Lukáš Jindra and Micael Hrubý. Laszlo emerged as a compromise candidate among the anti-Hrubý faction and grassroots. By the 4th ballot he reached the 55% threshold to secure the nomination. Josef soon after announced Judith Koss, one of the candidates, would serve in his upcoming cabinet.

Initial polls put Laszlo was ahead of Anna Kolel, his Civic Democrat opponent. By mid fall, Alex Tadeáš' rise greatly diminished his lead by drawing left-wing votes. In the meanwhile, Josef dodged questions about his experience and political platform by the Civic Democrats. On the October 12th primary ballot, Laszlo trailed Kolel by 5 points. Tadeáš' Republican Labour party scored enough votes to ensure a three way race in Novemeber.

The Laszlo campaign shifted ground for the next month as the polls once again tightened. The Liberals campaigned on a soft-left, centrist ticket with a targeted appeal to urban voters, which proved decisive. In the November 16th election Laszlo won on 41.4% of the vote, thanks largely to the suburbs of "mid-country" cities of Cheb, Kralové, and Liberec. Liberal Unionists made significant gains in concurrent [[Parliament of Pollona#Federal Council|Federal Council] elections, ascribed as a "coattail effect."

Presidency

On January 31st, Laszlo's was sworn in as President. The Laszlo administration inherited a sluggish economy, scandal ridden institutions, and a fractured parliament. The LU Prime Minister, Milos Raster, was leading a weak minority Cabinet dependent on rebellious CD turn independent MPs in the ICC (Independent Civic Caucus). Many of the administration's early legislative priories were moderated or postponed given the parliamentary instability.

Fiscal/Economic Policies

The Laszlo administration constructed policies broadly in line with its objectives, including: Honoring the commitment of previous Parliaments to a balanced budget; raising Income tax allowances to 12,000 Kc; and repealing a pre-planned increase of VAT from 15% to 17%. On potential tax increases plans to fund new projects, the administration compromised. Rate bands on incomes over 460k Kc were to increase by 2.5% points each; new LVT bands for properties valued over 1.5 million Kc were introduced; and a "withdrawal penalty" worth 25% of the potential taxable income, for corporations shifting profits overseas, was enacted as the top corporate tax rate fell to 21%.

The government introduced new infrastructure programs worth 30 billion Kc, including new railway, highway, and water management projects. Proposed increases to Health and Education fiscal transfers were abandoned until the next elected Parliament, due to lack of support. The Child Benefit Transfer was increased by 12 billion Kc. Fulfilling the recommendations of a departmental study in 2009, split level disability benefits were tested for new claimants. The government introduced a pilot "Open Hearths" initiative worth 850 million Kc, buying foreclosed properties and reselling them for 1 Kc to their disabilities tenants (or those on fixed incomes). New Job training programs worth 300 million Kc were implemented for those seeking employment in skilled trades.

The administration adopted pro-market reforms like reducing the number of business startup procedures (from 7 to 5) and reducing the size of the Federal Commercial Code (cutting it by 2.5%). The government simplified capital gains regulations, and strengthened existing shareholder rights on Board Elections and CEO pay. The government has proposed legislation enabling a phased reduction of copyright terms by 10 years.

Environmental Policy

Laszlo's administration has been markedly more "green" than past administrations, putting it at odds with parliamentary groups. The administration did reform the existing national carbon tax into a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme. Government royalty duties on Pollona's booming offshore drilling sector, is estimated to bring in between 4-8 billion more Kc by 2021.

In exchange for further investments worth 15 billion Kc in renewable energy, the administration has enthusiastically approved 3 new nuclear power stations, and promising to complete 2 currently under construction.

Foreign Policy

Laszlo, with his Foreign Minister Andel Dolonsky, are actively pursing a policy of rapprochement with Pollona's neighbors and Maredoratica's more liberal states. One of the Laszlo administration's first achievements was ratifying a diplomatic treaty with Sondstead in early 2014; by 2016 Laszlo made a state visit to Sondstead, the first by a Pollonan president since the 1950s. The administration enthusiastically supports Alisnan integration talks with Berry and other Alisnan countries. Some policy actions were domestically controversial. In 2015 Pollona signing the Malouines treaty with Moreiux, giving up its claims on the "Vladzemi" in return for settlement and property concessions. In 2016, Pollona reopened formal diplomatic relations with Styria, causing a stir in political circles.

The Laszlo administration is markedly more interventionist than past Presidents. Highlights include sending a naval flotilla against pirates around Karaman, sanctioning Hervenbosch, supporting democratic groups in Borgosesia, and authorizing covert operations in Questers (though this is disputed). Under Laszlo, Pollona continues to practice containment with Questers and is firmly anti-communist, reaching out to Prekonate and other Alisnan states for cooperation.

Other key priorities included opening the Pan-Alisnan Forum, maintaining membership of the Maredoratic League, and proposing an expansion of the current Maredoratic World Court to arbitrate more diplomatic disputes.

Events

Political and Social Views

Personal Life

Josef married his college sweetheart, Aneta Pala, in late 2001, shortly after she moved to Cáslav on business related work. Aneta kept her last name given her established business career. In 2004 she gave birth to the family's first child Katarína, and in 2006 to Victor. Reports speculate Aneta has consistently pushed her husband to retire from politics at the earliest convenience, so the family can focus on the children. In 2014 Pala admitted being uncomfortable in the political limelight, but would do her best as First Lady. Pala's frankness caused a stir in media circles. At her personal behest media outlets have kept a low profile on Laszlo's family. In passing conversation Aneta's parents described the Laszlos as "happy and easy going." The family's official residence is a 260 m2 townhouse in Cáslav, and in the summer they rent out a 120 m2 condo in Frýdek-Místek. The Laszlo's net worth is calculated between $2.5-3.5 Million, with half of their net wealth in property.

Laszlo is a confirmed Episcopalian. Unlike Aneta, Josef admits questioning his faith.

Laszlo highly fond of sailing, hiking, and tennis. He is a baritone singer, and featured in a joke album with other politicians in the 2012 record titled Petr and the Swingers (by Comedy House). As for musical instruments, Laszlo quipped that he was "absolutely frustrated at every turn" and finally "gave up after trying the piano, since Aneta play[ed] so well".

Laszlo is on record for being highly interested in science, claiming that he would go back for a degree in chemistry if given the opportunity to do so.

Electoral History

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Presidential Nomination 2013
Candidate 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Lukáš Jindra 36.7% 28.5% 23.9% 1%
Micael Hrubý 30.9% 30% 33.7% 40.1%
Jirí Krejcí 12.1% 16.9% 6.6% 0
Richard Bartunek 14.4% 9.2% 0 0
Josef Laszlo 4.5% 15.4% 35.8% 58.9%
Judith Koss 1.4% 0 0 0

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