On Czech Political Blunders

Hádka Pepíků (1886), Humoristicke listy, magazín Paleček; Autor: Karel Krejčík (A cartoon with two arguing "Pepík", members of Prague underclass - 1886); Author: Karel Krejčík

This is off topic post by regular contributor to this blog and political scientist. The post is rather an exception. For you, who are interested just in security/military or IR topics, do not read it.

As I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday referring to Czech presidential elections, out of all dumb-ass stunts Czechs have pulled in their politics this one takes the dumb-ass cake! Now, please bear with me here: this is NOT a blog written by someone whose candidate is on the losing side, for I am a permanent resident, not a citizen of the Czech Republic and thus not having right to vote, but what actually surprised me by far, and this is the point of the blog, is a poorly developed political culture in this country. Believe me, for someone who has spent considerable part of his life in Milošević’s Serbia I am not a person to be surprised easily, but Czechs have definitely managed to do otherwise!

I honestly find it very interesting, and this is now a political scientist talking, to find that considerable number of Czech voters decided on their future president with arguments such as “his wife (not) being Czech,” him “(not) being Czech (and also (not) speaking Czech) enough,” or, and this is my favorite, “him (not) wanting to crawl up German ass.” This only goes to show that, all things being equal, Czechs have been largely perceptive to overtly populist rhetoric and a tactic of political intimidation chiefly present in Czech politics.

To make things even harder, and the whole picture even more obscure, about 40% of voters simply decided not to cast their votes, obviously many of them dissatisfied with politics in general. The elections results should not be a problem, some people might say, for similar electoral reasoning and outcome can be found in other countries as well.

However, what I find shocking here is the fact that the country I used to name a very good example of a liberal social attitudes and a post-communist national success in democratic transition towards a liberal Western-style democracy elected its president with the aforementioned arguments that can easily be described as outdated. Not only that democratic political culture has been seriously compromised with these elections, but, what is even worse, the country’s future course is now largely dependent on how much future president will be pushing the agenda of parliamentary elections knowing that right-wing parties are largely without popular support.

Yes, this is not the president’s job, but knowing how Vaclav Klaus, the current president, has used his position to get cheap political points by advocating against the government, it comes as no wonder that his successor may try the same. Thus, as it seems to me, and quite opposite to what Vaclav Klaus has said, lies, hate, and fear seem to have won the day and many Czechs unfortunately seem content about that.


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  • Profilový obrázek
    27. 1. 2013, 21:43

    Pěkný článek, co dodat. Ty diskrepance mezi podáními jednotlivých volebních týmů kandidátů byly zřejmé. Také bylo zřejmé, který volební tábor se uchyloval k intimidacím, a který vůbec. Nyní je tedy zřejmé, nač skoro polovina národa myslí, jak myslí, čím nebo kým se dá ovládat a jak málo stačí k manipulaci. jak se na nás, bohužel, svět dívá a bude dívat. Dobře nám tak.
    Snad mě zase nesmažete, pane Šulci ?

  • Profilový obrázek
    František Šulc
    27. 1. 2013, 21:51

    Ad Pseugonym
    V tomto případě není jediný důvod, cokoli mazat. Děkuji.

  • Profilový obrázek
    28. 1. 2013, 0:40

    Very interesting article I have to say. As much as I agree with most of your assumptions I have drawn distinctly different conclusions from them. Some of the observations are mine, some belong to my friend Maj Chris Heppler (USMC) who has a Czech wife and spent some time in the Czech Republic.

    I have to agree with his observation. When he was forced to comment on the character of the Czech people, he said that „Czech people are like a good jazz music song – sometimes the tones you do not hear are equally important as those you hear“.

    1. Is it more important that only 60% people took part in the election

    OR that thousands of young people volunteered to support the campaignof presidential candidates in their own free time and 700.000 people took their time and effort to get the permits allowing them to vote outside their town?

    2. Is it more important that sizable portion of the rural Czech population was intimidated by the primitive nationalism and threat of the fictional German retribution

    OR that even more sizable portion of the urban population was disgusted by it and THEREFORE took part in the second round?

    3. Is it more important that the populist left-winged candidate won the easy downhill battle by a slim margin in the middle of economic stagnation

    OR that a member of a conservative party and the extremely unpopular government was able to gather over 45% of votes in spite of saying the inconvenient truth and refraining from the negative campaign of his opponent?

    In my opinion, in spite of the fact I may not like the result personally, it is actually rather good report of the state of our democracy. The democracy is not about doing the right choices all the time, but about the ability to correct the bad ones.

    Even Austria, the country with much more advanced democratic tradition, has recently made a mistake with Jorg Heider’s fascist party that was allowed in the government. But the Austrians corrected the mistake and where is Jorg Heider and his party now?

    Do not worry, this country is not going back to the late 1990s, the people and media are much cautious than they used to be. We will just be fine. The democracy knows no shortcuts, it needs time.

  • Profilový obrázek
    Kristina Soukupova
    28. 1. 2013, 10:37

    Thank you for the article and for the comments, all of which I agree with. There are two more points, I would like to offer for discussion here.
    1) apart from the above mentioned political culture in the Czech Republic, or the lack of, one of the most defining issues of the presidential election was selective historical memory of the Czechs. In this respect I have to bow to Milos Zeman for leaving the politics ten years ago to be forgotten, but coming back from time to time, not to be forgotten completely. Brilliant move of someone who probably knows the Czech mind set very well and uses it to his advantage.
    2) My second point is rather more alarming, but also says a lot about the Czech political culture. I am shocked that it has not been picked up by the mass media – do we really consider it normal that a Czech Army veteran, dressed in the current uniform (issue 97) takes an active part in Zeman’s political campaign. (I am talking specifically about the one veteran who took part in one of the presidential debates, although I am aware that there were more interviews and appearances of other veterans in support of Zeman). Is it not a direct breach of a fundamental principle of civil-military relations instructing the military to stay out of politics? I think it is!
    It may had been acceptable if he came to the TV studio NOT wearing a uniform. While I acknowledge his life-long entitlement for the uniform for special occasions, I must insist that wearing it means representing ACR and there is no place for it in political campaigning. I have spoken to few current ACR officers about this and they were all puzzled by it.
    I am convinced that this was yet another mistake of Zeman’s election team, which has gone unpunished by the voters. As mentioned by Ivo (above), perhaps one of the tunes in Czech jazz music that has gone unnoticed…

  • Profilový obrázek
    28. 1. 2013, 10:50

    Thanks Ivo, I wouldn’t be able to express myself more clearly than you did. I agree with you fully.
    Yet I still have to add that it worries me that some of the issues re-introduced during the campaign still find theirs audience.
    I would have hoped that the (mis-)deeds of our grandfathers would not haunt our society any more and that even the elderly people have general believe in the stability of our country and the status quo in Europe.

    Having said this I should also add that I am glad to notice that we (as a nation) learned to become sensitive and irritated with campaign without actual content no matter how professionally it is managed.


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