Thursday, 21 September 2017

Czechs suffer from lack of career politicians

ČTK |
10 July 2017

Prague, July 8 (CTK) - Czechs lack a class of professional post-communist politicians and politics in their country is markedly influenced by the cultural prejudice that it is a dirty business, lawyer and sociologist Jiri Priban told Saturday's issue of daily Pravo.

The opinion that politics is dirty is present throughout the modern Czech history and it will undoubtedly affect the campaign before the autumn general election. This opinion has recently been felt more intensively and in more extreme forms only because of the social networking sites and mass media, Priban said.

He said the situation in the Czech Republic, with its aversion to politics in general, is different from opposition to the political establishment in the United States, France, Britain and other West European countries.

In the Czech Republic, economic problems, unemployment and poverty do not play such an important role like in other countries thanks to the close interconnection of the Czech economy and the well-functioning German economy, Priban said.

He said the Czechs are still partly living in the industrial society because many people find jobs in automotive industry, which is a field that mostly takes away jobs from people in richer economies.

The Czech opposition to traditional political parties, which brings votes to populist politicians, parties and movements, is unrelated to the social and economic crises and it results from a traditional aversion to politics as such and from a reaction to the recent bad governing, Priban said.

Politics is a full-time job and, unfortunately, there are only few career politicians in the Czech Republic, he said, naming Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) and Marek Benda (Civic Democrats, ODS) as examples, he said.

Populist movements have recently become so popular in the country because of the absence of career politicians and the incapability of the parties that ruled the country in the recent years, Priban said.

The CSSD is undergoing a crisis similar to the one that hit the ODS several years ago. Unlike socialist parties in other Central European countries, the Czech Social Democrats did not transform themselves from the former communist party, but they formed within the democratic transformation after the fall of the Czech communist regime. As a result, the CSSD is suffering from the same weakness and crisis as the whole democratic society in the country, Priban said.

The CSSD has no clear programme and no unifying political vision that would destroy the specific economic interests of the grey eminences controlling the party's regional branches. Even though Sobotka's outgoing government has been successful, the CSSD cannot operate and stops being trustworthy for the public, Priban told Pravo.

The long-term crisis of the left-wing and right-wing parties in the country made space for the success of billionaire Andrej Babis and his ANO movement. Having an uncontrolled power over his ANO, Babis can present himself as a charismatic leader, Priban said.

He said he does not expect all democratic parties to join forces against Babis after the October elections since the country is not undergoing a total political crisis, such as the crisis Slovakia experienced under Vladimir Meciar in the 1990s.

But such a total crisis may occur in the Czech Republic if Babis's ANO scores a landslide victory in the forthcoming general election and Milos Zeman is re-elected president next year. Babis and Zeman would move the country beyond constitutional democracy and on the European periphery, where Hungary and Poland have already been, Priban said.

Many Czechs would like it if their country left the European Union because they are unable to ask what the alternatives to the EU membership are. The idea that the Czech Republic can become a sort of a Switzerland of East Europe is naive, same as all illusions that the country is a bridge between the East and the West thanks to its geographical location, Priban said.

Czech politicians should take an active part in the economic, political and social reforms of the EU, he told Pravo.

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