Thursday, 21 September 2017

Respekt: Czech voters want almighty Dad of the nation

ČTK |
27 June 2017

Prague, June 26 (CTK) - Czech society seems to be looking for "Dad," a man in his 50s who would look after everything after voters put him in charge of the country, and this emotional choice is accompanied by a strong enthusiasm that turns into a deep disappointment, Erik Tabery says in weekly Respekt out today.

In such an emotional environment, it is hard to do politics because facts are pushed aside, he writes four months before a general election.

Czechs seem to want their politicians to secure them, help them in bad situations and protect them against threats rather than rule the country well, Tabery writes.

He says opinion polls show that no Czech party in the current post-communist era ever had such a dominant position before elections as the ANO movement of Andrej Babis has now. According to the latest STEM poll, ANO might even win a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, he adds.

Other Czech political parties would like to reverse this trend by their election campaigns. The Social Democrats (CSSD) made the biggest change, replacing Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka with Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek as their election leader a week ago. Zaoralek certainly has a more attractive public image than Sobotka, his speeches are more dramatic and he can make a joke, but this alone cannot suffice, Tabery writes.

The new Social Democrat leader does not seem to offer any new ideas. Zaoralek even talks less clearly than Sobotka. Some CSSD politicians unofficially say it is Zaoralek's advantage that he speaks rather vaguely, like Babis, as he can attract different types of voters in this way, Tabery writes.

However, unlike Babis, Zaoralek is burdened by a 100-year-old party that is declining, Tabery says.

Traditional Czech political parties cannot revive unless they realise that their world has definitively changed and that Babis did not cause the change. Babis is only a phenomenon accompanying this change that has been underway in the whole Western world, Tabery writes.

He says negative and positive populism have been clashing, the first one being based on fear and the other one on hope. Stationary organisations that keep firmly relying on hierarchy fell victim to this development.

Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton because he became an ideal representative of negative populism, while her idealist appeals did not seem trustworthy and she was too closely connected with the distant Washington, Tabery writes.

He says Marine Le Pen lost to Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election because the young Macron, fresh and full of ideas, became the only example of hope for voters.

In Britain, which has the most fossilized political system, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, an outsider, was relatively successful in the recent parliamentary election because he became a symbol of change for the young generation, Tabery writes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a classical politician from a classical party with a long tradition, appears to be an exception from the new trend, but she has the advantage of having won her top position still before this trend prevailed, when the simple division between the left and right wing could be applied, Tabery writes.

He says people who feel afraid or uncertain are not interested in any arguments, but they want to see a world they can understand and in which they have their own place.

"Babis managed to offer this to people. He offers a unique blend of negative and positive populism, and one part of his voters trust his anger, while the other part trusts his smile," Tabery writes.

Moreover, Babis seeks to become another "Dad" of the nation who will take care of everything. ANO's campaign is based on this and the ANO movement adapted everything to this image - Babis is the head of the family with whom nobody may argue, Tabery writes.

He indicates that there are enough parties promoting negative populism in the Czech Republic and there seems to be no place for more of them.

One is grateful that there still are Czech parties that do not consider voters children who need to be educated, yet one does not vote a party out of compassion. To become a representative of positive populism and have a chance to succeed in elections, a party must offer a trustworthy story and trustworthy leaders who present a well-considered vision of society. It will soon be apparent if there is anybody with such an offer in the Czech Republic or not, Tabery writes.

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