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June 26, 2022



Commentary: Zeman, consciously dividing Czech society, is no President

Prague, 29.10.2014 18:13, (ROMEA)
Czech President Miloš Zeman trusts authoritarian leaders who regularly violate human rights more than the country's NATO allies. (Photo:
Czech President Miloš Zeman trusts authoritarian leaders who regularly violate human rights more than the country's NATO allies. (Photo:

We Czechs always manage to find something that will reliably divide us and invoke our emotions - and with them, our intransigence full of resentment towards others. Let's recall the presidential elections, when one camp attacked and the other counter-attacked.

During the elections, what everybody had in common was that they were radiating an energy similar to that of the communists during the 1950s in their own party activity. This was especially so during those moments when everyone would join forces to slander those who did not want to vote for either presidential candidate with accusations of treason (that's right, nothing less).

The victory of negative emotions

This was the first direct election of a president in our country, and for us as a group and as individuals, it either confirmed or opened up the option of creating a gulf between us and various other groups or individuals. This mechanism is ancient, but we have just now begun to learn about it (after many long decades of not experiencing it) through the direct elections.  

During the Nazi Protectorate and then the Bolshevik one, we found ourselves humiliated, powerless and resigned to the rule of "those on top". Then, in November 1989, the vast majority of people were united in the Velvet Revolution.

During the second round of the first-ever direct presidential elections here, hatred of others became something not just acceptable, but "intrinsic" to the process. The candidates' followers mobilized negative emotions and constantly increased pressure on the others - the "stupid" ones who had not yet grasped that if they failed to choose "the right candidate" then they would bear the blame for how things turned out; for the fanatic champions of either candidate, those negative emotions were then transformed into a positive emotional experience.

Fanaticism and rancor

I did not vote during the second round of the presidential elections and I was well aware as to why - I did not keep it a secret, on the contrary, I wrote a couple of articles about it and many online discussion posts. I personally experienced pressure from both sides on a daily basis.

In retrospect, I am glad, because I got to see what rancor can do to people whom I otherwise respect or to people of whom no one would have predicted that they might behave just like the fanatical party members in the 1950s. Today we cannot verify to what degree the pro-Zeman camp was right - they did not shy away from lies and slander during the campaign - because Karel Schwarzenberg did not become president.

His TOP 09 party, thank God, is no longer doing harm in the government through its policies, which were consciously aimed against the poorest of the poor. Everyone, including Schwarzenberg, understandably knew that those absurd budget cuts would not touch the wealthiest, but would rapidly deteriorate the lives of "those on the bottom" - one of the reasons I did not want to vote for him was that to have him as president would have given those asocial policies credibility in the eyes of the public.

President of just some citizens

Of course, there are a number of people who are sick of Czech President Miloš Zeman's behavior, and he himself is now becoming the topic that divides us. It is he who is momentarily invoking negative emotions and intransigence between two opposite camps through his actions.

I am no admirer of Zeman's, if not least because he takes the wrong approach to those things that are most precious and for which we have had to painfully suffer:  Human rights. As always, I am trying not to succumb to the campaigns and counter-campaigns that have nothing to do with reality and to preserve my own detachment.

Of course, I must add that in this case it is harder for me to retain my detachment, because Zeman is behaving as if he were president only of some citizens, not all of them. He does not realize that the first president of an independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, was a recognized figure because he did his best to bring people together.

Zeman does not bother with anything of the sort. He does not act like a president, but like a prime minister who decides matters on the basis of the program he was elected to pursue.

He has even angered a few famous figures to such a degree that they have put together a petition in an effort to spark a society-wide discussion on the topic of supporting human rights abroad. The authors of that petition cannot be ignored in Czech society:  They are former Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík, former Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb, and journalist Jan Urban.    

What many people believe about Zeman

Most of Czech society probably believes the following about the president:  He is the leading racketeer of the Czech oligarchs against human rights - he behaves toward the Chinese communist leadership and the Russian ruling class as if he were their subject, approaching them with a bent spine and returning home spouting grandiloquent drivel. In the interests of his ideology, he is willing to publicly claim that he trusts Russian politicians - who have often proven their treachery - more than our NATO allies.

He is willing to sacrifice the self-confident position taken by the Czech Republic against the years of human rights violations committed by the Chinese Communists for a piece of the pie for the billionaires from the PPF and J&T companies. Perhaps to emphasize this attitude even more, he flew home from China in a plane leased by the PPF firm, allegedly so he could be in the Czech Republic two hours sooner.      

He is dismissing human rights from his high position just so wealthy firms can get good deals. By toadying up to the authoritarian rulers of China and Russia, Zeman is confirming that he does not belong in office.

The shame of the left

I personally don't see this as open-and-shut - for example, I would not talk of Zeman committing treason (that's too much of a campaign slogan) - but essentially I agree with that perspective. I must add that the left wing in the Czech Republic is coming away from this with great shame.  

Right now human rights are being defended more by people of a right-wing orientation, while the left is fighting for the "rights of the oligarchs" together with "their president". It may be precisely this fact that is decisive for Zeman:  He is privileging the ideologically-conceived notion of playing lackey to the powerful over the Masaryk approach and its potential for bringing Czech society together.  

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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