Written by Pavel Vondra
FRACTIOUS AS THE RULING COALITION ITSELF, that’s what the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-ČSL) is, as demonstrated over the weekend at its party congress in Pardubice.
While the enfant terrible of the Czech politics, KDU-ČSL chairman Jiří Čunek, scolded dissidents within the party for undermining its unity, some of those he was aiming at fought back.
„Mister Chairman chose to stick to the old political rule: If you don’t have a vision, you need an enemy within. And if you don’t have one, you have to invent him (or her),” said the former party leader and Čunek’s archrival Miroslav Kalousek.
“Claiming that there are power centers being established at the level of party factions within the two chambers of the parliament not only creates atmosphere of uncertainty among the party ranks, but also amounts to a deliberate lie,” said another senior KDU-ČSL figure, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Jan Kasal.
The Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), addressed the delegates of KDU-ČSL congress with a direct challenge to either stick to the coalition agreement (and support the reform agenda of the government), or leave the cabinet.
Christian Democrats opted for the former in the discussion that followed and somewhat toned down their criticism of the health care reform, enough to keep the coalition agreement intact, but made it clear they still resist the idea of complete commercialization of the medical care.
Jiří Čunek also announced he is ready to give up his chairmanship should the party fail to make significant inroads in the local and Senate elections this coming fall, something which is bound to haunt him later, no doubt.
As the Olympic torch relay continues its progress towards Beijing, the Czech political representation finally made up its mind and announced none of the senior politicians intends to show up for the Games’ opening ceremony in the Chinese capital.
However, few of them had the guts to say they will not be going specifically to protest against the human rights violations perpetrated by the communist regime.
And the chairman of the lower house of the parliament, Miloslav Vlček from the Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) went as far as questioning there ever was such a problem:
“Please do not try to make up a reason I have nothing to do with. I don´t have complete information and I want to decide based on objective information. I don´t want to decide just on some pictures they show me on TV. Moreover, I met the Chinese ambassador here in Prague and she was saying something completely different.”
I bet she was.
Up to two thousand people showed up on Saturday near Míšov in Brdy region west of Prague to demonstrate against the plans to host a US military base there, which would form part of the missile defense system. The protest was organized by the Communist Party.
However, the real battle is expected in the parliament later this year, when it will be up to the people’s representatives to ratify the agreements between the Czech and US governments.
The negotiations are still under way and as they near its scheduled end at the beginning of May, the Czech side grows increasingly bolder, now asking Washington for assistance in modernizing the Czech army.
In and ill-timed fashion (as if there ever was a suitable time), vandals desecrated over 300 graves in a Jewish cemetery at the site of a former Nazi concentration camp in Theresienstadt (Terezín), some 60 kilometers north of Prague, by stealing bronze plates with the names of the victims.
They did so at the time when the world was commemorating the 65th anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto, considered the biggest single act of resistance of Jews towards Nazis during the World War II.
In light of this, I wish we had better news to report than the apparent swelling of the ranks of Neo-Nazis in the countries that once suffered under the boots of Adolf Hitler’s troops.
It is a stuff of the legend that when the aforementioned fuehrer arrived at the Prague Castle in March 1938, the crown, worn in the past by Czech kings, could not be produced for him to try. Somehow, it just went missing.
Today it is kept in the special vault in the St. Vitus cathedral that can only be opened when the keepers of the seven keys get together, something which happens quite rarely. But it happened last week, for the first time in five years and the public now has a chance to come and get a glance at the crown jewels, until the end of April.
Speaking of crowns, the one which most of us hold in their hands every day, just doesn’t want to stop increasing its value. I suggest you read our analysis why the Czech Crown has been the world’s best performing currency against euro last year.
So hooray for the CZK if you’re paid in the local currency and accept our deepest sympathies if you’re not. Besides, nothing lasts forever, as they say.