PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – October 23

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

Michal Chmela’s selection

We have been building up towards this for quite a while: the only notable thing media really covered was this week was the parliamentary elections. They are done. We are screwed. Just how much?

The obvious winner of the elections was ANO, the party of one man, one voice, one– I would really like to say “one ideology” but they really do not have any past accumulating power and money for its leader: millionaire, fraud, superstar immigrant Andrej Babiš. His fresh, new and utterly idiotic PR strategy of simultaneously denying that he is part of the establishment and at the same time claiming the credit for every single popular measure the government has passed has not only got him a 30 per cent of mandates but also boldly pushed doublethink to brave new limits, definitely proving beyond any reasonable doubt that you indeed do not need higher brain functions to participate in democracy.

Following in the tracks dug by that particular juggernaut of populism are three parties with around ten percent each: the long-since fallen from grace right-wing ODS, the fresh wave of vaguely liberal weirdos of the Pirate party (the highest achievement of whom, as their candidates and supporters never failed to mention, was the fact they never supported a controversial law. Or, as a matter of fact, any law, this being their first time in the Parliament – funny how they always omit that.) and SPD, the nationalist anti-immigrant immigrant and famously fascist fart Tomio Okamura’s collection of neo-Nazis stuffed into suits, insane asylum escapees and football hooligans that received one knock on the noggin too many. Oh, and after that there are some commies and has-been traditional parties.

Now, there are essentially three scenarios possible. One, the Axis of Assholery: ANO joins up with SPD and the communists and leads us into a happy slightly fascist but completely immigrant-free future that ends up in being eaten by Russia, most likely willingly. The one factor playing against this possibility is that ANO could prove reluctant when it comes to leaving the EU on account of Babiš being way too fond of defrauding European money. This could change the moment the EU decides to actually do something about him, though.

Option two: ANO puts up at least a façade of democratic government and approaches ODS, Pirates and possibly the other newly minor parties. The hitch in this plan is that every single one of these party leaders has loudly stated that they will not cooperate with Babiš under any circumstances. Not all is lost for the enterprising dictator wannabe, though: the underperformance of traditional parties in the elections means there is going to be a lot of openings at the top soon – and if not that, there has never been a better time for a small, delicate intra-party coup.

Option three which is essentially impossible: parties keep their word and refuse to co-operate with ANO. This leaves them with only 78 and even if ANO manages to get only the support of frothing fascist fathead Okamura he will be stuck at 100. Which only really means that we will inevitably, once again, be screwed over by the communists. See scenario 1.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

Georgian local self-government elections
The elections this week brought the full victory of “Georgian Dream” over all other political parties in the country. According to Transparency International Georgian Statement, more people participated in 2017 than in 2014. The statement also refers to the whole process as relatively peaceful, except for the Marneuli shooting incident where representatives of “Georgian Dream” were wounded. Also, many violations were recorded, such as intimidation of voters, violation of ballot secrecy, interference against the observers of TI-Georgia, interference in journalistic activities, etc. Overall across the country, Georgian Dream received 56.1% of votes, United National Movement – 6.8%, European Georgia – 10.31%. With the majority of votes Georgian Dream now holds 32 seats in Parliament out of 64. Together with the changes in constitution regarding President elections, the party makes it way to getting a full control of the country.

Moreover, the new mayor of Tbilisi and subsequently ex-football player, Kakha Kaladze thanked the voters and referred to his further plans: ‘As for our specific projects, very soon we will inform the public about my teammates in the City Hall. Together with their introduction we will talk about specific projects that will start from the very first day of our work’.

Russia accused US of destroying the “capital of IS,” the Syrian city of Raqqa
Kremlin accused the US military coalition in Syria of “wiping out” the Syrian city of Raqqa during an operation to release it from the militants of the Islamic State. The Syrian Human Rights Monitoring Center on October 17 announced the complete liberation of the city. However, the Russian Defense Ministry compared the consequences of this operation for Raqqa with the fate of Dresden during the Second World War.

Navalny holds rally in Astrakhan the same day as he ends his administrative punishment
On Sunday, the founder of the Anti-Corruption Fund Alexei Navalny, was released from arrest and flew straight to the pre-election rally in Astrakhan. It is the first rally after TV host Ksenia Sobchak’s announcement of her participation in the presidential elections. Let us remind you that he served an administrative punishment – 20 days – for appeals to gather for a protest in St. Petersburg on the birthday of President Putin.

‘Ekho Moskvy’ radio presenter Felgenhauer attacked in her office
Another week, yet another horror story in Russia. Radio presenter Tatyana Felgenhauer of ‘Ekho Moskvi’ (Echo of Moscow) was attacked in her office in the center of Moscow. The intruder blinded the guard with gas, then proceeded to the radio station office where he stabbed Felgenhauer in the neck. The woman is alive and the failed murderer caught by police. His motives are still unknown, although previously the radio station has been accused of violating the law banning agitation on the day of silence.

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

Breaking news: Hungary’s President Áder vetoed a bill! The President who had no problems with the amendments of the Education Act popularly referred to as Lex CEU, the act severely discriminating children with learning disabilities, or the act extending the state of emergency (in effect since 2015’s “mass immigration”) till 2018, sent back a bill on chimney sweeping. The proposal would have ended mandatory chimney sweeping, leaving security checking up to individual, voluntary requests. Áder stated that this would pose great safety risks, and even cited some study(!) that in countries without mandatory chimney sweeping, the number of deadly accidents is way higher. Can’t argue with this at all.

A small rural city proudly presents their new “interactive” (sic) harm reduction initiative. Developed by the local police’s drug prevention expert and hospital administration (undoubtedly educational experts both), the initiative includes taking high-schoolers around the pathology ward, where a doctor “draws their attention” to the consequences of alcohol consumption, smoking, and substance abuse. “Naturally,” the point of the initiative is not to scare young people, only to give them a “realistic” picture. Pathologists as harm reducers, that is innovative indeed. Drugs → death.

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


Roman Broszkowski’s selection

Election mania in Central Europe is over for now, but before we move on let’s look how the governments-elect impact Poland. Firstly, Poland’s PiS is boosted by the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) landslide victory as the parties share positions (mild Eurosceptism, anti-immigration, social conservatism, etc.) Additionally it is increasingly likely that ÖVP will enter into a ruling coalition with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria. Although the coalition will be 9 seats away from having a super-majority, an ÖVP-FPÖ government will provide Poland with a strong ideological ally within the EU. Don’t expect the EU to start being a calm place after this election. Secondly, with polls finally closed in Czechia, Andrej Babiš and ANO have won handsomely. However, with only 78 seats ANO will need to form a coalition government. This is wouldn’t have been a problem except that the election runners up have said that they will not enter into a government with ANO. Babis’s other option is to join forces with the far-right SPD party and perhaps Top 09 to pass the 101 seat threshold. Honestly, Poland couldn’t be happier, two medium sized countries to it’s Eurosceptic camp in the EU. Now PiS will feel emboldened, being surrounded in Central Europe by like-minded governments.

Infrastructure Wars
The rift will continue to fester, but shouldn’t distract us from the other major component of Polish foreign policy: Russia. There is an infrastructure war going on between Poland and Russia that is crucial to both states’ overall international strategies. The first piece of news this week is that Poland and Co have asked the EU to get involved in the negotiations between Germany and Russia over the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, the proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany/Western Europe. Poland is against the pipeline because it fears Russian influence in Germany. Russia sees this as a plus and Gazeta Wyborcza reported this week that Russia intends to refurbish its military using natural gas profits. Poland and its regional allies brought up their fears at a Thursday security roundtable. Meanwhile, Poland is also embarking on an infrastructure project of its own. The same day Poland raised objections to the Nord Stream project, Marek Gróbarczyk, the Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, announced that the Polish government has picked a site for a proposed Baltic Sea-Vistula Lagoon canal. The point of the canal is to make it easier for ships to access the Polish port of Elblang. Currently ships must first enter Russian territory at the mouth of lagoon before sailing to Elblang at the lagoon’s far end. The canal would cut through a thin peninsula to directly access the Gulf of Gdańsk, in the process completely side-stepping Russia. The move would hurt Russia’s ability to close the lagoon to trade and put pressure on Poland.

The final story this week I want to cover is a combination of events. On Wednesday 18th, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz announced that Poland had been the victim of a series of cyber attacks. The attacks, he claimed, had not only tried to steal information, but also deactivate or immobilze critical infrastructure. Take this with a pinch of salt however, Macierewicz likes to see enemies around every corner. That being said the attacks could mark a new stage in Russian aggression in the region. The next day, Macierewicz and other regional Foreign Ministers were on hand to celebrate the opening of a NATO Counterintelligence Center of Excellence in Kraków. The center is supposed to train agents and is part of Macierewicz’s goal of having a “cyber army” to counter Russia. Regardless of the reasoning, the center is a sign the regional states are worried about cyber-aggression and feel the need protect themselves. It will be interesting to see how Russia reacts.

Some other news stories: Polish police break up an illegal cigarette factory, a man lights himself on fire in the center of Warsaw to protest the government, and the doctors’ hunger strike receives national support as it enters its third week. #Protestuje

Roman Broszkowski is an undergraduate International Politics student from New Jersey. His area of study is Eastern Europe and the Middle East.


Featured photo by gato-gato-gato via Flickr.