Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Respekt: Zeman manages to activate his supporters

ČTK |
30 January 2018

Prague, Jan 29 (CTK) - President Milos Zeman defended his post against academic Jiri Drahos on Saturday because he managed to activate his supporters and people should get ready for a tough battle for the form of Czech democracy, Erik Tabery writes in weekly Respekt out on Monday.

Drahos may have made a lot of mistakes in his campaign, but this is insignificant. He lost because the rival camp activated the supporters of Zeman's politics. Drahos won the same number of votes in the runoff as Zeman in the previous presidential election five years ago but while Zeman won in 2013, it was not enough for Drahos to succeed now, Tabery writes.

In the weekend election, Zeman won 51.4 percent of the vote, gaining about 150,000 votes more than Drahos.

Tabery says Drahos was a compromise candidate who was not tainted by any scandal, not politically responsible for any unpopular decision, who opposed refugee quotas and did not represent any political party, which means that there was no reason for any group of population to automatically reject him.

Those who cast their votes for Zeman did not do so out of despair or in some strategy, but it was a deliberate step. Unlike in 2013, no blow under the belt markedly influenced the election result, Tabery writes.

In the past five years, there were heated debates about how to reunite Czech society, build bridges to the voters of Milos Zeman and far-right populist Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD) and get out of one's social bubble, he says about the camp of Zeman' opponents, adding that it was claimed that if this effort fails, democracy will be threatened.

"This path turned to be wrong and another needs to be found. The reason is simple: something like this can work only if the other camp is interested, too. Now we know that there is no interest," Tabery writes.

He says there are two incompatible halves in Czech society that will fight for an incompatible future.

The "Zemanist" part of society will continue having the dominant political influence, having the president, government and a majority in the lower house of parliament under their control. However, one can hardly expect the situation to calm down because the Zemanist mainstream will keep complaining about wrongs done by their enemies. And, first of all, it will want even more power. Sympathetic reactions and self-criticism are no good here, Tabery writes.

He says one must accept the radical division in society and avoid effort at bringing the two camps closer together artificially. The only one who can offer a path to reconciliation is the winner, and Zeman made it clear that he does not want to reconcile, Tabery adds.

The result showed that the presidential election was not a conflict between social groups or a fight between the towns and the countryside, even though this had some importance. It seems that the main division line is education and age, Tabery writes.

The forces that reject democratic rules, an open system and control of those in power will feel much stronger now. There will be more attacks on the media and various state institutions, he says.

People should talk more openly about their own values and principles, without being afraid that somebody would be turned off or annoyed by it because the others are not afraid either. These ideas should be defined as precisely as possible and introduced into the public space, Tabery writes.

One cannot let populists operate without strong opposition and then expect that a few weeks of a heated campaign will bring a change, Tabery says.

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