BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Happy Havel has his day
HITS: 2050 | 14-04-2005, 05:24 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
 (Votes #: 0)

The Financial Times on 17th June described Václav Havel as the “happiest Czech” after the election results came in. One month later, on 17th July 2002, he appointed a new cabinet led by new prime minister, Vladimír Špidla. There are 17 members of the government: 11 ministers are from the CSSD, 3 from the KDU-CSL and 3 from the US-DEU. Stanislav Gross continues in his post as minister of the interior. Also continuing with their previous portfolios are Culture Minister, Pavel Dostál, Defence Minister, Jaroslav Tvrdík, Pavel Rychetský (justice) and Jiří Rusnok (industry). Petra Buzková becomes minister of education. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda is the new Foreign Minister with the ministries of transport and environment also going to the KDU, while the US’s Petr Mareš becomes minister for science as well as being one of 4 deputy prime ministers. Pavel Němec (US-DEU) is the new regional development minister and Vladimír Mlynář, minister of information. According to the Czech news agency, the new ministers traveled to Prague Castle “on a foreign bus” to be sworn in by Havel. Afterwards the same bus took them to Lány to “place flowers on the grave on Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czech president.”8 An act of respect reminiscent of many similar ceremonies in the country’s Communist past.

There had obviously been a certain amount of horse-trading over the allocation of ministries. At one stage, it looked as though the US-DEU was going to demand the post of finance minister for the party’s acting chairman, Ivan Pilip – a preposterous demand as Pilip had not even been elected to parliament. But cooler heads prevailed and the US backed down. As pointed out, there are members of the CSSD who could rebel if too many concessions are made to a party that only got 7% of the vote. As the government only has a majority of one there is no room for hostages to fortune.

However, all parties in the coalition seem to agree on one issue: a total commitment to entry into the EU, without, it seems, any strings being attached. As Radio Free Europe pointed out “All three of the potential coalition parties have pinned their political fortunes on EU entry, though barely half of the Czech population supported it in the most recent poll”.9 Criticism of the terms and arrangements for entry is labelled “nationalistic” and “extreme right-wing” thus stifling debate. In fact, analysts like Pehe have concluded that the new divide in European politics is not between right and left but between those favouring European integration and others sticking to the outworn model of the nation state. As long ago as November 1999 Petr Mareš, new US deputy premier, predicted that, in the Czech Republic, “the Communist leader Grebeníček would play the role of Haider”10. So, the tactics of discrediting the left by labelling it “right” have been around for some time.

Meanwhile, the ODS has begun some heart-searching over its electoral failure. One conclusion is that the party suffered from media bias and must set up its own press outlets. This may be easier said than done, but the symbiosis that now exists between the Czech media, the presidency and large sections of the new government is going to be the major obstacle to the expression of any plurality of views in the near future. The results of the 2002 parliamentary elections might even turn out to be a re-run of the February 1948 coup, albeit by other means - only this time no one seems to have noticed.

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