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LN: ČR not facing threat of “illiberal democracy”

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Prague, Oct 24 (CTK) – The Czech Republic does not face a serious threat of “illiberal democracy” despite the pro-Russian and pro-Chinese policy of President Milos Zeman and popularity of the billionaire businessman, media mogul and ANO leader, Andrej Babis, Jan Machacek writes in Lidove noviny (LN) yesterday.
The main reason for these fears are the developments in other countries of the Visegrad Four Group (V4; the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), where illiberal democracy rules, Machacek writes, referring to Hungary and Poland.
He points out that the term illiberal democracy was used for the first time by U.S. journalist of Indian origin Fareed Zakaria in his article in the Foreign Affairs journal in 1997. The main idea is that it is enough to insist on free elections in transforming countries, but strong institutions of liberal constitutional democracy, such as independent courts, the rule of law and the protection of minorities, also play a significant role.
In some countries, free elections take place, but other pillars of liberal democracy are a mere facade, which was the case of Slovakia in the first half of the 1990s under the authoritarian regime of PM Vladimir Meciar, Machacek says.
He points out that unlike the other V4 countries, the Czech Republic is not threatened with “illiberal democracy” for several reasons.
First, some countries are returning to their situation in the past. Poland was not a democracy, but an autocratic state where an anti-Russian, anti-Soviet and anti-communist ideology ruled before WWII, while Hungary was a fascist dictatorship, which was also anti-communist. But anti-communist does not necessarily mean democratic, Machacek writes.
On the contrary, the pre-war Czechoslovakia was a democratic country, and this is why it will probably remain so, he says.
Moreover, thanks to the proportional election system, there is no chance of one grouping gaining an absolute majority in Czech parliament, not to mention a three-fifth constitutional majority, which happened in Poland. The recent landslide victory of ANO in the October 6-7 regional election brought the party some 20 percent of the vote, Machacek says.
He adds that gradually, ANO will be either transformed into a mainstream party, less dependent on its founder, or it will disappear after he retires.
Finance Minister and Deputy PM Babis criticises the parliament as a place for empty chattering, but he had the Czech lower house of which he is a member in mind and not parliament in general. But Babis is not attacking the work of courts, the CNB central bank and the constitution, Machacek says.
Many are of the view that it should be hard to govern in liberal democracy as it is based on a permanent fiddling in complicated consensus decisions. But if the complex character of governing is taken to extremes, it is not possible to govern at all and it ends up as the EU with the popularity and comprehensibility of such a community, Machacek says.
However, in the Czech Republic, plurality is secured. The parliament deals with the conflict of interest, which Babis faces, in a law and the media he owns cover some 10 percent of the market.
As far as “illiberal democracy” is concerned, one may rather ask whether it is normal that the senior government Social Democrats (CSSD) control the Interior Ministry, the police, the General Inspection of Security Corps (GIBS), the parliamentary committee for security and police supervision and all secret service, Machacek adds.
Zeman’s inclination towards the East, his lying and revengefulness are naturally a big problem, but Czech voters will have a chance to choose another head of state in the next direct presidential election in 2018, he writes.
Besides, the strong negative reaction of the Czech society to the supreme constitutional officials’ servile kowtowing [to China in connection with some politicians’ meetings with the Dalai Lama] shows that the country’s slow escape to the East is limited, Machacek writes in conclusion.

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