Tuesday, 24 April 2018

HN: Czech society sees unprecedented dark novelties in 2017

ČTK |
28 December 2017

Prague, Dec 27 (CTK) - The Czech Republic saw several unprecedented dark "novelties" in 2017, such as the challenging of the traditional system of political parties, of the human rights principle, of the constitution and of the country's EU membership, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Wednesday.

The relatively high number of recent new phenomena on the Czech scene has made them a symptom of a change, Honzejk writes, adding that a fundamental transformation of the Czech Republic seems to be in the offing.

For the first time in history, the general election was won by other than a standard left- or right-wing democratic party. A combination of people's dissatisfaction with the country's rather slow approximation to West Europe and the uncertainty spreading across the whole West world has brought a new project, Andrej Babis's ANO movement, to power in the Czech Republic, Honzejk writes.

Paradoxically, this happened in a period of economic prosperity, but it often happens in politics that people's sentiment prevails over facts, Honzejk writes.

Babis has skilfully provoked disillusion among a number of Czechs, put the blame on the "traditional parties" and vowed to do things otherwise as he stands on "neither the right nor the left" but would do everything for people to fare better. Many Czechs put their trust in him, Honzejk writes.

This approach that helped Babis prevail is not a new type of politics only, but also a latent rejection of democratic politics as such, Honzejk writes.

Democratic politics is based on a competition of autonomous ideas promoted by political parties. At present, the more and more people seem to be starting to consider the competition unnecessary and believe that a single universal movement [ANO] is capable of representing the interests of all and meet the wishes of all, Honzejk writes.

However, Babis's movement is not free of ideology. Its ideology is vulgar pragmatism. Principles and values have been pushed aside and the only criterion of ANO's steps is how they would benefit ANO. Babis wants to govern the state like a business company, with a majority consent but potentially ousting those who are not part of the "correct" majority. Of late, it ousted small tradespeople, whom it labelled "thieves", and also "unadaptable people" who "produce kids so that they can shun work," Honzejk writes, citing ANO leaders, and adds that another group might be ousted next time.

The idea of human rights protection, too, seems to start being viewed as unnecessary, Honzejk writes.

In this respect, the Czech developments coincide with those in Central Europe. True, no windstorm of nationalism or conservatism is raging in the Czech Republic, unlike Hungary and Poland. However, political philosopher Jiri Priban is right when he speaks about the ongoing paradoxical counter-revolution in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe, where the desire of power is as strong as the hatred of the modern man with his idea of civic rights and a democratic government, Honzejk writes.

The ideas of a nation as a community united by the soil and blood and of a state directed like a business company are only different displays of the same hatred, he adds, citing Priban.

This is a background of another Czech "novelty" of 2017. For the first time, an openly hateful and xenophobic party won over 10 percent vote in an election. Within its election campaign, Tomio Okamura's Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) denied the constitution and international conventions by demanding a ban on Islam and a zero acceptance of refugees, Honzejk writes.

True, neither Islam nor refugees practically exist in the Czech Republic, but Okamura has used the effective principle of people fearing all unknown, and hating all what they fear. The worst thing is that the SPD is taken for a regular partner [by the election-winning ANO], given significant posts and considered a potential silent supporter for an ANO minority government, Honzejk writes.

Babis, the new PM, has legitimised the extremists in accordance with his ideology of vulgar pragmatism, as he expects the step to benefit his ANO, Honzejk writes.

For the same reasons, the Communists (KSCM) gained a portion of power this autumn for the first time since the fall of the communist regime. The KSCM's result in the October general election was the poorest since 1989, but the party may help Babis in the new constellation of power and therefore it has gained posts that were unthinkable for it to gain before, Honzejk says.

President Milos Zeman, too, has contributed to the unfortunate novelties by newly challenging constitutional principles, for example that of the Chamber of Deputies' confidence motion as a condition of a government's survival in power, Honzejk writes.

Another "novelty" under Zeman was his support for the police crackdowns on the demonstrators protesting against the Chinese president's visit to Prague, and his calls, though in a hyperbolic exaggeration, for journalists to be liquidated, Honzejk writes.

Czech political "premieres in 2017" indicated that the country has proceeded to an antechamber of a new revolution, with the system of political parties being challenged, like human rights protection, the country's constitutional norms and its EU membership. This all is happening peacefully, hailed by a large part of Czech people who want the country to embark on a different path in expectance of a better life, Honzejk writes.

This reminds of the situation in 1948, when the Communists seized power not in a bloody or violent coup but in a coup hailed by about one half of the nation, Honzejk adds.

Copyright 2015 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor is not responsible for its content.