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Jan Fischer, new Czech PM, rejects “puppet” image

Prague — Jan Fischer, whose non-partisan temporary cabinet will lead the Czech Republic to early elections in October, says he will not be "an obedient puppet" in the hands of politicians.

"I won’t be an obedient puppet. And the cabinet will not work according to instructions from parties," said Fischer, who will steer his country through the rest of its six-month European Union presidency running to June 30.

"From the start I have been convinced we will not be a cabinet of weaklings. And I will play a clear role in this," he said in a recent newspaper interview.

Former Communist Party member Fischer, 58, emerged as a consensual choice for wrangling Czech politicians after the centre-right cabinet of Mirek Topolanek was toppled at the end of March, midway through the Czech presidency.

Before taking the new job, Fischer dedicated his life to statistics, a study he calls "an interesting adventure."

The former head of the Czech Statistical Office, little known within his country and hardly at all outside it, said earlier he had no political ambitions: he will serve his five months and then return to his lifetime passion.

"I would understand my role above all as a service to the people of this country, and that’s the important thing," he said, stressing he still felt a "wish and desire" to return to statistics once his service is done.

When asked how much he was looking forward to the new job, he answered: "Do you want me to be quantitative?"

Czech President Vaclav Klaus recently described Fischer as a "prudent man who has never been radically politically oriented to one or the other side" — despite his communist past.

Fischer was a member of the Communist Party between 1980 and 1989 during the Cold War — he said he had signed up "to be able to pursue my career."

He joined the statistical office after graduation in 1974. In 1990, he became its deputy chairman, and in 2003 he took the top job.

Born into a family of mathematicians and statisticians he spent his entire career at the office except for three years when he worked for a research company and at the University of Economics.

In 2001, he was a member of an International Monetary Fund mission that looked at the feasibility of setting up a statistics service in East Timor.

As the country’s top statistician, Fischer often attended cabinet meetings and he "knows the whole agenda in detail," said outgoing prime minister Mirek Topolanek.

As prime minister, Fischer may benefit from having known Klaus for 30 years.

When Klaus was an economic forecaster at the Academy of Sciences, the two men were even on first-name terms, according to Czech media — but this no longer holds true.

Fischer, born January 2, 1951 in Prague, lives with his second wife, a former secretary and assistant. He has two sons and a daughter.

He says "the best relaxation for me is sleep," speaks English and has some knowledge of Russian, French and German.

When asked about his vices during a recent interview, he said: "I used to be a chain smoker, but I quit fourteen years ago. I’m not a teetotaller, but I don’t drink much. I’m not a womanizer either. But I love cafes, I really do."