Czech Republic, Slovakia

Abortions, amnesties and accusations: September in Czech and Slovak politics

September sees protests in the Czech Republic and a fight over abortion in Slovakia.

Konev’s legacy

After the situation surrounding the suddenly inconvenient Konev statue calmed down, a Prague district hall held a mostly rational discussion — only occasionally interrupted by screams from the outside — and ended up deciding to replace Konev with a monument to the liberation in Prague and moving him to a less offensive location to the public eye: the most likely place seems to be a cemetery, presumably due to its innate advantage of vandalism being less conspicuous there.

Russia has claimed that this solution is ridiculous and breaks an international agreement regarding war graves — despite  not covering this monument —which has resulted in a potentially explosive scenario where Czech and Russian diplomats are busy ignoring each other while pro-Russian media — including our beloved President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman — happily spread rumors that the whole thing was started in order to build an underground parking lot; Never mind that project having been effectively scrapped in 2006.

Justice is served on a platter

In happier news, President Miloš Zeman has officially celebrated his 75th birthday. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him and express a heartfelt wish for his well-deserved retirement, forced resignation, or spontaneous combustion. Present wise, it would, alas, be impossible to top the collective gift handed to him by Parliament voting against charging Zeman for his repeated, blatant constitutional violations. The gift is made that much better since it came right after Zeman announced his intent to abolish the case against the slightly-less beloved Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, for tax fraud if the case ever were to actually reach the courts.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (left) and President Miloš Zeman (right) in 2018. Photo by Martin Divisek.

Funnily enough, this explicitly contradicts what Zeman claimed last year when he said that, “Under no circumstances, I would give amnesty to Andrej Babiš. I will not change my opinion in this matter, that would make me look utterly ridiculous.” Well, mission accomplished.

Still, it is probably better that charges will not be pressed after all, since prosecutors in the case have abruptly decided that apparently, no one is to blame for creatively interpreting a “small or medium-sized industry” (read: eligible for EU subsidiaries) as “part of the biggest agrochemical conglomerate in the country.”

Curiously enough, this change of heart came rather suddenly after four years of investigation. The EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, continues to stick to the results of its 2018 investigation and still claims reasonable suspicion of fraud, but it’s not likely that a system thoroughly infiltrated by Babiš’s people will listen. Still, look on the bright side: stopping the investigation will spare the Prime Minister the rather embarrassing duty of having to sign his own amnesty.

Oops, wrong button

Okay, genuinely good news this time. Viewed from the oh-so-glorious Czechia, Slovakia mostly resembles  a desolate wasteland loosely ran by an unholy mess of Catholics, conservatives, fascists, gangsters, and idiots (come to think of it, this also can apply to the Czech Rep. Oh well.) Thankfully, this view was shown to be — at least partially — unjustified when the Slovakian Parliament recently stopped no less than four bills dealing with legal restrictions on abortion over the course of a single day.

Granted, some of the reasons for bills not passing were rather peculiar:one decisive ‘no’ vote was provided by the head of one of the supporting parties when they  accidentally pressed the wrong button (this, sadly, was the one proposed law that did not intend to restrict or prohibit, but rather make it easier to adopt children), but perhaps at least some degree of reason was involved in deciding the outcome of abortion rights bills: a heavily politicized topic in Slovakia, as can be attested by the massive protests supported by, among others, the Catholic church and the neo-Nazi party LSNS – a combination that has a rather sinister history in that country. Still, the Parliament appeared to pay them little heed and the three human rights-restricting bills were stopped, at least for now. Hooray for Slovakia.

Hysteria! Disorders! Jihad!

There is genuinely good Czech news here as well, but, as always, it does get rather marred by further developments. Over a thousand people took part in this fall’s first climate strike in Prague with hundreds more joining in other cities. While o only opposed by a group of less than ten aspiring libertarians waving comedic banners reading“say no to climatic socialism” (and, one can only assume, “coal has a freedom to be burned”), the predominantly conservative Czech political scene chose their moment to react a little bit later. As Greta Thunberg delivered her UN speech, a veritable contest began to see who could slander the Swedish activist the most.

Thousands gather in Prague as part of the Global Climate Strike. Photo by Petr Zewlakk Vrabec.

The game was kicked off by Civic Democrats (conservative, right-wing, patronizing twits) with statements such as “green madness,” “underage, sick Greta, child victim of the eco-lobby,” and “ideology always led to tragedy,, only to be immediately one-upped by their nationalist offshoot Tricolour and its traditional, honest and utterly despicable dose of youth shaming and ableism including the line, “worldwide politics should not be influenced by a sixteen-year-old girl with some diagnosed mental disorders.”

That was immediately topped by our beloved President who compared the climate protests to a children’s crusade only for that to be topped by the Prime Minister’s comments about “tone, aggression, and hysteria” while commenting that the Czech Republic is doing what it can for the betterment of the climate. It certainly is: one of the bold new steps taken by the country is the establishment of a committee for reducing coal mining in the country.

An admirable purpose, certainly, but it just happens that the latest addition to that particular committee just happens to be a climate change denier, who(I wish I was making this one up) referred to Thunberg as the “Joan of Arc of the climate-jihad”.

And that really says it all.


Michal Chmela
Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.