Jan Macháček

Hledání

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Czech Business Weekly

Who really needs commies, and why

11. 04. 2005
It’s hard to predict with any certainty how the current political crisis will be resolved, as the situation changes not just every day but almost every hour.

The government seems to have few options. The first, possibly the ČSSD’s last chance to survive as a relevant political entity, would be to piece the government coalition back together under a new prime minister, most likely Finance Minister Miroslav Sobotka. If the Social Democrats are not able or willing to get behind this effort, then their place in the political dustbin could be guaranteed.

The second option is a preliminary election to establish some form of interim government. The last possible scenario, much in the headlines at the beginning of last week, is a minority government headed by Gross and silently supported - or tolerated - by the Communists.

Let’s step back now from prediction to reflection. The option of surviving with the support of the Communists has provoked a lot of anguish and clearly illustrates how important it is in this country to write about not only what is being said but also who is saying it. Journalists should focus more on how someone’s public stance on an issue stands up to his or her past words and actions. In English, the term used to describe this consistency between speech and action is “integrity,” and it is probably no coincidence that we have no analogous Czech expression. We say and write integrita (integrated), but the importance of this phenomenon is grossly – no pun intended – underestimated in Czech politics.

In Parliament for example, the loudest critic among the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) against a minority ČSSD government cooperating with the Communists was shadow Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlustý, himself an active member of the Communist Party until 1989. Funny headlines appeared in Mladá Fronta Dnes charging that former ODS chairman and current President Václav Klaus is “erecting a barricade against the Communists.” This seems ironic, considering that it was Klaus who was elected thanks to the Communists and that he invited Communist Chairman Miroslav Grebeniček to the presidential residence. And it is Klaus who is the main architect of the Communist comeback. Former President Václav Havel, in contrast, was repeatedly elected without a single Communist vote.

We should also consider the ability of a government supported or tolerated by the Communists to act effectively. Such a government either cannot act at all, or must do so based on striking deals with the Communists. But if the ČSSD moves only in accordance with the wishes of the Communist Party, its eventual fate will be political marginalization and disintegration.

All this means that instead of analyzing the details of who said what about whom and when, we should be taking a more long-term perspective and ask: “What is really at stake?”

We are witnessing a harsh fight for dominance on the political left between the Communists and the Social Democrats. If the Communists win and the ČSSD becomes marginalized, the ODS will probably have an easy time of it as the governing party for the next, say, 15 years. A defanged ČSSD must also be a welcome prospect for Klaus, whose main goal is to become president for a second term. As far as he is concerned, the more seats for his ODS and commie supporters, the better.

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