Czech Republic

Of Rainbows and Rabbits

Good news: the Czech government backed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. Bad news: it's only a publicity stunt to cover up for the mess created by the authoritarian government

You might have read about it a while ago: the Czech government backed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, definitely a step towards moving this post-communist midden in the direction of a civilized country. Good news: it really happened. Bad news: that’s all that is going to happen. To put it bluntly, the short stint of playing at human rights was a publicity stunt intended to smooth the way for an almost universally hated government, which is officially in power. However, before we get back to that rather tragic proposal, we need to mention some of the things it was supposed to justify in the eyes of the public.

Two ministries? Well, only if you insist…

Czech politics has shown all the signs of being a rather tasteless farce for a long, long time but the negotiations preceding last Wednesday’s confidence vote were farcical on a whole new level.

Prime Minister, the oligarch immigrant superstar Andrej Babiš (no longer in demission, although now wanted by the discouraged police) played his cards close to his chest and announced a minority coalition appointed a government of experts in their respective fields; one of whom is the Social Democratic appointee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Miroslav Poche.

While the man’s expertise lies primarily in obtaining illegal financing for his party since 2010, what ultimately broke his back as a member of the government was disapproval by His Senility the President, who claimed Poche had voted in favor of the country accepting immigrants in the European Parliament. As a result, Zeman refused to call Poche a minister. Surprising? Not at all, considering that Poche tried to rally the Social Democrats to vote against Zeman in this year’s presidential elections. And that, no self-respecting vindictive zombie can forgive.

This left the budding coalition of cocky populists and social democrat losers without a minister, a situation swiftly amended by announcing that the Vice-PM, Minister of Interior and chairman of social democrats Jan Hamáček will lead the Foreign ministry as well. The concentration of power is frightening —Babiš is so much further on the road to a dictatorship that his behavior becomes merely ridiculous, just as does Hamáček’s bleating that he intends to fight for Poche to take the position in the end.

Rabbits of Justice

Double-booking ministries, however, seems to have given Babiš a particularly brilliant idea. As an oligarch, one of the country’s biggest capitalists and a man investigated by the EU for fraud, he was bound to make sure the Ministry of Justice is under his control. After all, he managed to somewhat covertly take over every agency that threatens to investigate him. A flash of genius: one thing that beats having a puppet-minister is having a ministry for yourself. Here comes Taťána Malá.

Malá is one of her kind, even compared to the rest of Babiš’s freakshow. She’s had her five minutes of fame in January when the possibility of Babiš being investigated by the EU still seemed real, by suggesting the investigation should be postponed for four years until Babiš is no longer PM and being rather bewildered by the rest of the country considering this utterly idiotic.

Five months later, Babiš dragged her out from her cozy party official rabbit-hole and keeping his promise to create a government of experts, he appointed her the Minister for Justice. To reaffirm this claim, she flaunted her two university titles and merrily set off to bury the slightest notions of her lord and master ever having to answer for all that strategically diverted money, spouting a regular flow of nonsense along the way. Her expertise was so evident journalists started to investigate where she got her splendid education from. The answer was quite simple: her law degree came from the disrespectable Pan-European University in Bratislava,

It is a school well-known for providing easy titles with no questions asked to people with the proper political inclinations and, coincidentally, also a school whose graduates are not recognized in the Czech Republic as lawyers. Further research revealed that her thesis contained passages plagiarized from somebody else’s work, including the typos.  Still, one does not have to be a lawyer to be an expert Minister of Justice, right?

Ms. Malá also turns out to be an expert on rabbits, specifically in the micro-climatic conditions necessary for breeding them, which clearly justified her position; alas, that was not meant to last either. Prompted by the revelations about the plagiarized first thesis, mean and sneaky journalists dug up thesis number two, the rabbit one. Result? Out of the twenty-five pages, text that could be with some leniency considered original appears on a grand total of eight. The mass outrage that followed was presumably spawned by the bitter jealousy of those suckers who had to actually work on their academic titles.

The inevitable question of why did Babiš – who, unlike, Malá, would have had a fair chance of successfully defending the claim that he is not a complete moron – appoint a clearly unsuitable candidate into an already extremely unpopular government, was in part answered when Malá gave her resignation. At the same press conference, Babiš announced that he would suggest that he temporarily takes the place of Minister of Justice himself. He has since consulted this with his PR department and backpedaled into appointing another sycophant – not that they are in short supply, ANO being what it is – but chances are that press conference provided a rare moment of him speaking the truth about his intentions.

Rainbow in the Dark

With all the staffing curiosities, this is still a minority government that walks a very thin line if it wants to pass any laws through the Parliament so it takes sympathy wherever it can get it – and this is where the same-sex marriage proposal fits in. Babiš himself does not give a flying fig about minority rights, ANO has no clear political stance on essentially anything and it does not hurt him in the slightest to point at the bill and claim his party is being progressive, since after all, this is the first time a Czech government has backed up such a law. Similarly, the groups most likely to sympathize – liberals, intellectuals, city folk – would find their anti-government sentiments somewhat curbed by the fact the current parliamentary opposition, which they mostly voted for, is in large part opposing it. As far as PR gambits go, it is genius; it shows a populist/social democrat/communist government in a positive light to those convinced it is physically incapable of doing a good thing.

It is a great gesture, but sadly that is most likely to be all there is. Before the bill becomes a law, it would have to go through at least three steps. One, it will be evaluated by the government. Two, it has to go through the Parliament. Three, it has to be signed by whatever malevolent entity is in possession of Zeman’s cadaver in that given week.

Even if the government manages to stick to the proposed course of action, the chances of the bill passing through the Parliament are slim; when it comes to the scale of progressivity, most of the parties in Czech legislature occupy positions between conservative and medieval. The Dark Ages mentality is more or less guaranteed by Civic Democrats (conservative), TOP 09 (conservative although trying its damned best to pretend otherwise), SPD (fascist, already spoke out against it), communists (would Stalin approve?) and Christian Democrats (yeah, right). Even if ANO and the Social Democrats support the bill unanimously – which they won’t since this is a perfect opportunity for ANO to pretend it is a democratic party and the social democrats cannot even agree amongst themselves on whether they are social, democratic or neither – the bill is at the mercy of the communists who, while some of them signed the original proposition, stick to their tried and true conservative nationalism. Dark Ages everywhere; no rainbow is going to shine through.

And promising that same-sex marriage will be discussed in the Parliament does not cost anyone anything; after all, the last time the question of adopting children by same-sex couples was raised, the topic was somehow being postponed for two consecutive years. Until now, the times of the new government.

No rainbow in the dark.


Michal Chmela
Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.