Saturday, 25 November 2017

Právo: Babiš' gov't means no end of democracy for now

ČTK |
13 November 2017

Prague, Nov 11 (CTK) - The governance experiment Czech President Milos Zeman is preparing together with ANO leader Andrej Babis deserves criticism but no hysterical reaction, and those who label it an apocalypse should better try to boost their own credibility, Lukas Jelinek writes in Pravo on Saturday.

He refers to Zeman's plan to entrust the forming of a new government to Babis, a billionaire whose ANO movement won the October elections and who has repeatedly lashed out at Czech parliament and called for changes to its structure and work.

True, Babis has forced Czechs into a marketing-like approach to politics. He has replaced the previous right-left conflict with an emphasis put on effectiveness and quick managerial solutions. He gives simple and often wrong answers to a number of complex questions. His person is burdened with scandals, Jelinek writes.

Furthermore, Babis does not shun unusual political alliances. He has been alternately inviting the rightist Civic Democrats (ODS), the centrist Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Pirates to form a government with his ANO, Jelinek writes.

At the same time, Babis prides in ANO having some programme goals in common with Tomio Okamura's far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD). He does not want the SPD as a partner in an ANO-led government, but he would welcome the SPD's support to ANO's possible one-colour minority government, Jelinek writes.

The same goes for Babis's approach to the Communists (KSCM), he writes.

A government leaning on rightist or leftist extremists would be no novelty in Central Europe, Jelinek continues, mentioning Austria and its Jorg Haider party in the 2000s and Slovakia under prime minister Vladimir Meciar in the 1990s.

Such governments definitely did not benefit these countries' image. Similarly, the emergence of such a government in Prague would bring a shame on the Czechs, but it would be no end of the world, Jelinek writes.

First of all, it is necessary to consider what was behind the rise of the protest and extremist parties in the Czech Republic, because this year's election results might repeat until the causes are removed, Jelinek says.

He says it is warning to hear Babis openly asking the public opinion for support, instead of addressing the request to the Chamber of Deputies. In doing so, he copies the practice of Zeman.

However, Zeman derives his legitimacy from the direct presidential election he won in 2013, while Babis's ANO won the recent general election within representative democracy, based on a proportional election system, and as a probable governing party it will be accountable to lawmakers, Jelinek writes.

Babis's opinion that parliament is nothing but a prattle band and should be reduced changes nothing about this, he says.

Naturally, Babis's disdain for parliament is a problem, but he does not speak of the abolition of parliament but on a reform it needs. The assessment of the Babis-outlined reform is a matter of opinion, Jelinek writes.

ANO is not strong enough to destroy democracy in the country. It lacks a constitutional majority of votes in the Chamber of Deputies as well as the absolute majority in the Senate. Besides, ANO members can be expected to know the limits that should not be crossed, Jelinek writes.

The Czech Republic is a country with a system of brakes and counterweights. The executive power is divided between the two centres (the government and the Presidential Office), and there is the bicameral parliament. Independent judiciary operates in the Czech Republic, being far more sovereign than in the rest of the post-communist countries. The Constitutional Court (US) supervises the whole system, Jelinek writes.

"Any change to the essential attributes of a law-abiding state is inadmissible," reads the Article 9 of the Czech Constitution.

Attempts to misinterpret the constitution have intensified of late, but this crucial premise is clear, Jelinek says.

The experiment with the country's governance, planned by Babis and Zeman, deserves sharp criticism, but hysterical reactions are inappropriate, he writes.

Those heralding an apocalypse should better try to improve their own credibility so that people give them a chance again and let them bring the stray train, which is heading towards developments similar to Poland and Hungary's, back to the main track, Jelinek writes, referring to democratic parties in parliament.

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