Czech Constitutional Court backs activist in dispute with MP
"The illegal behavior of MP Řápková has generated CZK 8 million of debt for the town of Chomutov so, to be honest, it is rather ridiculous for her to try to combat 'inadpatables' when she has proven so 'inadaptable' herself," said Daniel Hůle. The staffer with the NGO People in Need was commenting on a proposal brought by MP Lenka Kohoutová and MP Řápková to legalize the option for collections agencies to attach an individual's welfare benefits, which would leave the insolvent with only the legally-defined subsistence minimum as income.
Řápková, the former Mayor of Chomutov, sued Hůle for those remarks; the case has gone through every level of the court system, and Hůle was ordered to apologize for stating an inaccurate amount of money in his characterization. He counter-sued before the Constitutional Court, saying his right to express his views on public affairs had been restricted by the lawsuit for defamation.
The Constitutional Court has now ruled that the extent of criticism that is acceptable with respect to politicians is much broader than it is for private persons and that politicians must show a greater degree of tolerance when it comes to remarks made about them. The court has overturned the previous verdicts in this matter and instructed a lower-level court to review it once more.
"The inadaptable Ms Řápková"
Řápková is among those politicians who can be credited with disseminating the term "inadaptables" in the Czech media and public discourse. "If we read through media archives, the term was being used before the world of politics discovered Řápková, but it was not used as frequently and was often modified for example, through the use of scare quotes or the modifier 'so-called'," Tereza Šídlová wrote four years ago for news server Aktuálně.cz.
Sociologist Karel Čada says of the term that, "This usage is, in a way, due to the charms of political correctness. The word 'inadpatable' in Czech has become a synonym for Romani people. Mayors use it to say out loud what their voters use a different vocabulary to curse about in the pubs."
The fight against "inadaptables" was one of the pillars of Řápková's political career; her most popular measure as mayor was to instruct bailiffs to collect welfare from beneficiaries in Chomutov in order to pay off debts they owed the city for back rent or unpaid fees. Her proposal that municipalities should have the option of banning "inadaptables" from living on their territories also enjoyed a significant response.
Řápková has not only clashed with "inadaptables", but also with their defenders, those derisively called the "truth-lovers", such as former Czech Human Rights Minister Kocáb and former Czech Human Rights Commissioner Uhl. Another pillar of her political career was also remarkable: As a regional-level politician, she began in Chomutov in the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose dominant figure was Alexandr Novák, later convicted of corruption and now in prison.
She was also a member of the group of politicians and public figures who were suspected of having been given diplomas by the Law Department at the University of West Bohemia thanks to the connections of that department with entrepreneurs and politicians, which some observers called "mafia" ties. Last year she left ODS but continues to work as an advisor to Czech Senator Jaroslav Zeman; it seems her political career is ending.
While we can't draw larger conclusions from this about the overall state of Czech politics, it is good news in any event: Řápková was a populist politician without a shred of social sensitivity who had no idea how to address relations between the majority and minorities or any other social problem. On the contrary, she contributed to exacerbating tensions between the majority society and the Romani minority in the Czech Republic.
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