A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

29 January 2013

Spiegel's Roundup of the German Press on Zeman's Election

This link (in English!) does a very nice job of evaluating the Czech Presidential election. There are a few contradictions in the opinions (Is Zeman on the left, or is he simply an erratic populist?) but all in all, it captures the overall nature of who voted and why. And when you're an erratic leftish populist, as Zeman is, there's really not much of a contradiction. Leftish populism in a rather evenly divided country has a very good chance against a center-right aristocrat who is the head of a party in a very unpopular government.

This was certainly an election fought along two axes: it represented for some voters either a return to the past or a turn to the future, and also represented a left-right battle. As I discussed with a friend last night, a "forward" looking leftie may have had a better shot against Zeman's populism, and it is certainly true that Zeman focused on opening up old wounds rather than offering a Grand Vision of the Czech Republic in the 21st Century. Schwarzenberg certainly didn't help himself by asserting (probably correctly) that the mass expulsion of German-speaking Czechs after the Second World War would be considered a war crime if it were done today; he opened up a door that Zeman bulldozed his way through, and Zeman hammered this home repeatedly the last week of the campaign. (The House of Schwarzenberg was personally affected by the confiscations of land and the expulsion.) 

As Hospodářské noviny has pointed out, (also in English!) this already has implications for reorienting the Czech Republic back toward the East, with greater cooperation with Russia, and less with the US, particularly on the building of a new reactor at a nuclear power plant. It will also be interesting to see if the traditional Czech defense of civil rights and individual freedoms abroad will be toned down under a Presidency characterized by warmer relations with the Kremlin. After all, in spite of all those noble dissidents all those years ago, it must be remembered that the Czech Republic is still the only nation in the EU with an unrepentant Communist Party, and there is a huge split between those who have been "winners" since 1989 and those who have been less able to adjust to freer markets and a more open politics. 


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