PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – August 21

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

Michal Chmela’s selection

It has been a fairly quiet week in the Czech media, the most pertinent questions being whether Andrej Babiš being finally charged with fraud changes anything about his popularity or the threat of him becoming the next PM. It does open space for some rather interesting discussion regarding the country’s attitude towards the concept of mafia state: we are used to the politicians being corrupt, we expect the politicians to be corrupt and we are fully comfortable with them getting away with it scot-free; but we are considerably less aware of corruption in the police that supports it. Scandals, crimes and fraud have become just political ammunition that vanishes without a trace once spent.

In the end, it does not even matter whether Babiš succeeds in turning himself into a martyr figure; he is a symptom, not the cause, and getting rid of him is not going to make the mafia state go away with a poof and a wave of a magic wand – despite what his political opponents would like us to believe.

And then there’s this week’s installment of the ongoing comedy of terrors that is the anti-immigration hysteria: a real patriotic hero and city councilor for Hodonín has been merrily cruising his constituency in a car when he spotted a family committing the terrible crime of wearing the wrong skin color in public. Upon stopping and performing expert interrogation focused on whether they were Muslims, the local politician promptly learned the suspicious folk “spoke broken English” and “told him they came from Nigeria” upon which realization the brave man realized he is in over his head and called the police. Which promptly found out the suspects were American tourists.

A lot of questions come to mind but the foremost is just what in the unholy name of post-factual populism is this clown doing holding a public position?

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

World Bank Approves $50 mln Financing to Georgia
Following the agreement signed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Kumsishvili and Mercy Tembon, World Bank’s Regional Director for the South Caucasus, Georgia is to receive a EUR 44.6 million IBRD loan for the Second Programmatic Private Sector Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO).

Government to gift all first graders with laptops for school 
The LEPL Educational and Scientific Infrastructure Development Agency of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia reports that in the new academic year of 2017-2018 all first graders enrolling in public schools of Georgia will receive Acer laptop computers from the State along with textbooks for the year. Free textbooks will be provided to students from 1st to 12th grade.

The pedestrian areas of Stavropol will be fenced because of the terrorist attacks in Europe
The decision was made by the Governor of the region Vladimir Vladimirov after the end of the terrorist attacks with the use of cars in Europe and after the attack of a man with a knife on passers-by in Surgut.

Four Georgian films are competing for Oscars nomination
Considering the requirements of the American Film Academy, a total of 4 applications were submitted from Georgia: “My Happy Family” (directors – Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross), “Hostages” (Rezo Gigineishvili), “Scary Mother” (Ana Urushadze), and “Luka” (Giorgi Barabadze).

The US will suspend the issuance of non-immigrant visas in Russia
The issuance of United States non-immigrant visas will be suspended from August 23 throughout the Russian Federation. From September 1st the procedure for issuing visas will be resumed, but only in Moscow. Visas will not be issued in the US consulates.

The gap between poor and rich has been growing in Russia
The salary data of first 6 months of 2017 was compared to that of the 2016. The growth of the gap has been explained by the increase in the income of the already wealthy, says Svobodnaya Pressa. Overall, it was noted that the income of Russian citizens has dropped by 11.2%.

Nino Sichinava is an International Relations student at Lazarski University (Poland) and Coventry University (UK). A contributor for Political Critique and European Alternatives.


Anna Azarova’s selection

This week, Hungarian media discussed recent proposals for an election reform. Eight months before the elections, a young initiative, the Common Country Movement (KOM) launched a campaign which aims at uniting all oppositional parties to advocate for a more proportional and balanced electoral system – which even the far-rightist Jobbik might join. KOM claims that should the proposal be rejected in the parliament, they will turn to non-violent civil disobedience until it is accepted.

Seizing the occasion, the up-and-coming Momentum party published their own proposal, too. According to Political Capital (PC), an independent policy analysis institute, although it is laudable that Momentum has identified the current system’s main problems, not all suggestions are all that… For example, PC claims that Momentum are disappointingly limiting their own reform by insisting on the 199-seat parliament, which, contrary to Momentum’s claims, would not be a solution for “simplifying” the process. Neither would be the “dismantling” of the winner-take-all mechanism, part of which would be the re-introduction of the second round – however, with the significant difference that before 2014 at least 3 parties could make it to the second round, in Momentum’s version only 2 would, which wouldn’t make much of a difference for the opposition.

Former MP–turned–anti-corruption journalist–turned social (but in a cool way) entrepreneur Gabor Vago, however, had a completely different suggestion: to vote not just for one candidate, but for first and second preference – and maybe even the last preference.

Kettős Mérce’s András Jámbor published his proposal as well, focusing more closely on one detail – as Jámbor claims, even a seemingly democratic electoral system can be hijacked to serve “oligarchs’ interests,” and thus the regulation of campaigns and party financing needs special attention. For example, in Jámbor’s version private donations would be forbidden, and state support would be distributed not according to the parties’ previous results, but according to the citizen recommendations during that same campaign.

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Sofiia Shevchuk’s selection

The attitude of Russian population towards Ukrainians has changed. Russians are tired of constant news about Donbas, Ukraine and the US. Instead, they require more information about their domestic situation connected to the everyday life of the ordinary citizens. Thus, the political campaign for the next elections will look different from the one it was before and will touch more internal problems.

Ukrainian media have noticed that after the terrorist attack in Barcelona on August 17, Twitter users started to post more cats. With respect towards the victims and their privacy, users started to post cats for terrorist organisations to get lost and not to receive the information about losses. In such a way Twitter users tried to create an obstacle for the terrorists to reach their main goals: full media coverage and scared citizens.

Last week Kyiv was assessed as one of the worst cities in the Liveability 2017 ranking by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Although, there were a lot of people who did not agree on that, including the comment of Marius Janukonis under one of the Twitter posts. Mr. Ambassador mentioned: “Kyiv might not be in Top10, but criteria for this ranking need reviewing. Living standards here hardly reflect the conflict in the East.” At the same time, Business Insider put Lviv, another city in Ukraine, to the list of must-see places across the globe that everyone should visit in their lifetime.

According to the statistics center Watcher, the number of Ukrainians registered on Instagram increased during last two months for more 400 thousand and now there are 6 million accounts officially registered. However, Facebook after reaching the peak point on 19th June of 9 million users, has not changed much since then. Such increased interest from the side of Ukrainian users can be explained by the fact that Ukrainian president has forbidden to use the Russian social media like “Vkontakte” and “Odnoklasniki”.

Sofiia Shevchuk is a student of International Relations and European Studies at Lazarski University, and Coventry University. She is interested in the perception of Ukraine in the world and the development of media and communications in the XXI century.


Featured photo by Marco Fieber.