Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Senate rejects Zeman's candidate for ÚSTR board member

ČTK |
21 April 2017

Prague, April 20 (CTK) - The Czech Senate rejected the nomination of writer Lenka Prochazkova for a member of the board of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) in a secret vote on Thursday, Senate election commission head Ludek Jenista announced.

Prochazkova won only 15 out of 62 votes in the first round of the election held on Wednesday and 10 out of 45 votes in the second round held on Thursday. Zeman will have to propose a new candidate to the senators.

Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said it was sad that the senators lacked courage to consider Prochazkova ideologically acceptable.

"Lenka Prochazkova was a signatory of the Charter 77," Ovcacek told CTK, referring to the human rights manifesto released in 1977. She had courage at a time when it cost a lot to be courageous, he added.

Prochazkova's nomination triggered a stormy reaction from the USTR trade union. In an open letter, its representatives said she approached history of the country from the ideological point of view and used a propaganda and demagogic style. They recalled that Prochazkova burnt NATO symbols, called on the Czech Republic to become a fifth column of the European Union, and labelled the Roman Catholic Church a national enemy in connection with the return of church property that had been confiscated by the Czechoslovak communist regime.

Prochazkova also said the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1968 was a betrayal by Western politicians who gave up support for the Czechoslovak reform movement in order to maintain a balance of power in the world.

Prochazkova dismissed the criticism. She said she would like to focus on the publication activities of USTR, the 1968 Prague Spring reform movement and the role of the media in the liquidation of democratic regimes if she was elected to the board.

Prochazkova, 66, was active in the dissident movement and her books were issued abroad or illegally during the Czechoslovak communist period. Dissident writer Ludvik Vaculik was her partner for many years and they had two children. In the 2000s, she worked at the Czech embassy in Bratislava. She campaigned against the church restitution that was pushed through by a right-wing government. The law on the property settlement between the Czech state and churches took effect in 2013.

Zeman proposed Prochazkova to the seat in the USTR board that has been vacant since the recent death of Nadezda Kavalirova, former long-standing head of the Confederation of Political Prisoners.

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