PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – January 22

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

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Michal Chmela’s selection

Presidential elections still keep most of media attention thanks to the obligatory onslaught of bizarre campaign strategies (warning: ears will bleed) and questionable results no matter who wins but it’s not all that happens.

For one, the saga of Should We Prosecute A Thief If He Happens To Be PM received a rather unexpected sequel: it turns out the immigrant millionaire superstar PM Andrej Babiš, in spite of being the most popular politician in the country, actually failed to secure enough MP votes to keep his political immunity. As such, he is now officially under prosecution and wanted by the police.

Which does not stop him appearing on TV daily, running his propaganda machine and even building a new cabinet after his last suggestion did not pass through the Parliament. He is supposed to communicate his failure to our beloved President, may he get eaten by bloodthirsty lemmings, on Wednesday next; the joke being that according to Zeman’s previous statements, is widely expected to charge Babiš with forming another cabinet straightaway, in spite of the abject failure of the last one and, y’know, Babiš being a wanted criminal.

What shifts this development firmly from the real of the absurd to potentially terrifying is that the negotiations regarding the upcoming ministers primarily involve the votes of two extremist parties: the communists (in name only as it is an openly Stalinist-Putinist party by policy) and frivolously fascist freeloader Okamura’s SPD; negotiations that have already manifested in appointing Parliamentary committees so we got a man who is afraid of microwave ovens as the head of Security, a communist leading Immunity and only narrowly avoided having the man who was in charge of violently (and unsuccessfully) suppressing the student protests in 1989 in charge of the committee supposed to watch over police

In short, we are screwed.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Anna Azarova’s selection

On Friday, high school students held an impressive demonstration in Budapest, protesting against the usual things: that compulsory education in Hungary is something you survive, it is humiliating, hard, and boring. I, for one, clearly remember one moment in my teenage when I suddenly thought, wow, is this what thinking feels like…? So I’m easily moved at sights like this. Sure enough the government isn’t, and they’re using the same discrediting tropes as against any dissenter they’d like to to be associated with the one who shall not be named, the invisible Jew pulling the strings in the background: apparently, the organisers were bussing in foreigners, since they didn’t think enough people would show up anyway. No meaningful reactions have been sighted, except for some lip service to freedom of speech – funny, since some young people were too scared to show their faces in case their parents would face repercussions, and some apparently were threatened themselves.

Ten weeks before the elections, Orbán graciously proclaimed that the Roma are actually not a burden for this country. “We believe that the Roma are not a helpless minority living off of welfare, that is, other taxpayers’ money, (…) but Hungarian citizens, whom we can offer a liveable future, here, on their homeland.” We’re great at strategically categorising people into either “burden” or “resource.” Remember that time when the so-called “refugee crisis” began and suddenly, conveniently forgetting our traditional Antisemitism, we started emphasising the Judeo-Christian foundations of Europe?

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


Roman Broszkowski’s selection

Tensions continue to ramp up in Poland over new abortion restrictions proposed by the government. For some background check out last week’s section. This is PiS’s second attempt since taking power in 2015 at further restricting abortion and again its proposal has been met with protests. However these recent round of demonstrations have been smaller than the now famous 2016 “Black Monday” revolt where thousands of people flooded the streets of Warsaw and other major cities, forcing the government to back down. Organizers and supporters have waved away criticism about the low turnout, saying that the resistance to is just starting and that opposition to the bill is a marathon not a spring. The lack of mass demonstrations may also have something to do with the weather. Since the measure was introduced, the temperature has rarely cracked 3 Celsius. Take into account that “Black Monday” was on October 3rd and the temperature was six times warmer. Truth is PiS has probably learned from its failure and deliberately proposed such a controversial bill to coincide with the country’s coldest months. Even so the protests do seem to be getting some color. On Thursday, 11 balloons filled with red-paint slammed into PiS’s Warsaw headquarters.  No one is sure where the protests will lead, but the bill is still in committee and the weather is warming up.

At the same time as pro-choice advocates are hitting the streets, doctors and public health activists are hitting the negotiating table. (For quick refresher.) Following a hunger strike in last year and popular support for their demands, striking doctors have won the opportunity to discuss an agreement with the new cabinet. The previous Szydło government approved a proposal that would increase public health spending to 6% by 2025, but this falls under the doctor’s demands and beyond their timetable. The new Health Minister has said that he wants a dialogue and the talks look conservatively promising.

Check in next week to see if the weather holds/improves and if so do the negotiations. In the meantime, #Protestuję.

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 Lovro Rumiha via Flickr.