They call themselves a government of budget responsibility. Entertaining. However, they will at best be remembered as a government of play-acting. Play-acting a tragicomedy or is it rather a farce? That depends on two factors. Firstly, what impact will their politicking have on institutions of the state? Or, what will be left after they leave? And secondly, how and when will they leave at last? Although bizarre dimensions of their last play do not leave us with much certainty that they will ever leave.
The Czech government is reportedly breaking-up again. Or not. Much the same as nearly every other week over the last two years. This time the cause is that one of the three government parties, the smallest one, called Public Affairs (Věci veřejné), announced that its ministers would leave their posts immediately and the party would demand a complete reconstruction or demise of the whole government. And shortly after that half the MPs left the party which was subsequently expelled from the government coalition.
Being faithful to their name, the Public Affairs, a party allegedly devoted to fighting corruption, started their last campaign for political self-destruction at a time when more of their affairs went public again. For complete understanding, it is a party which is known, at least from a significant part, to be more or less run by a private security agency called ABL. A security agency suspected of tagging politicians. A security agency of which a „former“ boss and co-owner, Vít Bárta, is simultaneously a „former“ vice-chairman of the Public Affairs party and also former Minister of Transportation. Meanwhile, MR Bárta was tried and convicted of corrupting his own party´s MPs.
Mr. Bárta´s defense against the allegation of giving substantial sums of money to some of his colleagues in the parliament is not even based on a statement of not giving them the money. The core of the defense is that these were not payments for loyalty but loans. Loans with promissory notes. From MP to MP. Unfortunately and unbelievably, due to the Czech ludicrousness of a legislature there is not much for the law to stick to and not much to laugh at. This specific affair has been going on for quite a time already, being based mainly on the testimony of one of the MPs and one of the party´s former leading members, Kristýna Kočí, and on the evidence she handed to the court.
The evidence includes an envelope and a load of banknotes bearing Bárta´s fingerprints. And also hours of recordings, mainly from the party´s unofficial (but apparently effectively governing) board´s parties in Bárta´s apartment. There is much more to laugh at for the court of law then, as these recordings include moments with the MPs, including Bárta´s wife and the party´s current vice-chairman Kateřina Klasnová, agreeing upon twosome toilet meetings regardless of their sex or matrimonial status. And, of course, some ear-tearing recordings from the toilet itself. Regrettably of non-sexual content, save for weird tastes.
On one of the recordings Kočí told one of the party´s former ministers that she was offered a „very acceptable amount“ by the Minister of Finance, Miroslav Kalousek (from another government party, the ridiculously named TOP 09). And also, that she received another unspecified offer from the Czech PM Petr Nečas (Civic Democratic Party, ODS). On the basis of this recorded statement hysteria broke out in the Public Affairs. Another party vice-chairman, Tomáš Jarolím, called for a party congress and to leave the government, claiming that the other coalition partners were seemingly auctioning the Public Affairs MPs. The congress took place almost immediately, polling for them to leave the government. The party´s chairman Radek John, a former TV entertainer among other much less entertaining things, made public that the party´s ministers would leave the government at once.
The next day they had not. All three ministers the party still has left, after the other ones left on an individual basis and for different but always similar reasons, have refused to fulfill the congress decision. So, what now? The party could of course leave the coalition leaving its ministers behind and thus bringing the whole farce to a well deserved end. Would they?
No, they would not and probably they will not. Their coalition partners unanimously decided they would not be against their government´s pitiful end and calling an early election. Why would they? Both parties, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09, have their numbers and despite all the shame surrounding their government and the certainty of losing a governing majority and thus a chance to occupy most of the offices, they would surely at least creep into the parliament again exceeding the five percent quorum. This is not the case for the Public Affairs who currently struggle to get near to a public support of two percent, making them virtually an isolated MPs club. Hence, these chaps are the only ones sure to lose their jobs in such a case. And then again, they have to repay their loans.
However, Mr. John, an experienced showman, has found a solution. A solution with a plan. A solution consisting of pretending that all of this was a part of his masterplan. Including the party´s ministers refusal to do what they were publicly told to. And there is more. This masterplan, according to John, aims at strenghtening the government´s efforts to fulfill the programme, especially regarding the fight against corruption.
Although the leaders of the two remaining government parties also stated that a future cooperation with the Public Affairs party would be nearly unimaginable and the Minister of Finance even called for an early election as a possible way to get rid of something „as slimy and disgusting as the Public Affairs party“, nothing happened. Prime Minister Nečas called for calm. The government met on Tuesday and decided to continue.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bárta was convcted. Regardless of the fact that he did not understand that there was any wrong-doing. And regardless of this, half of their MPs decided to leave the party. It is not quite clear whether the government still has the numbers needed to survive. As the other coalition parties already declared that they would not cooperate any further with the Public Affairs party, save for the ones who left it. All of its future depends on three undecided MPs. The government will meet on Monday again to find out if they have their numbers. Prime Minister Nečas once again called for calm.
Maybe they will calm down. The rest of the people probably will not. But then again, what ways are there to do something for the ones ouside parliament to get rid of a government? According to online public inquiries of leading Czech newspapers about 80-90 percent of the respondents support an immediate election. There were quite popular protests in Prague on the 21st of April. Who cares? As long as the MPs are able to settle things among themselves. If not publicly, then privately, or the other way round.
Label this story an exaggeration, if you wish. Even hardened Czechs are not certain any more, if it is permissable for them to believe what they hear, see and read about it. And the harder it is to estimate how deeply into the sink of a political system will they get with this farce of a government. Or, if hopefully…
published: 21. 4. 2013