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Klaus' successor: Miloš Zeman elected Czech president

I have "more positive than negative" opinions about both candidates but I voted for Miloš Zeman (*1944, see a sensible story in NYT) in both rounds of the first direct presidential elections because he seemed like a decent enough successor to Klaus to me – and I am not claiming that Zeman is quite in the same category as Klaus (yet). As the de facto founder of a non-communist, major, left-wing party (in Czechoslovakia and later Czechia) that other nations know, this guy who has lived as a pensioner in the last 10 years is one of the last active "founding fathers" of the post-revolutionary political system in my nation.

Whether or not the politicians – and the society – preserve the continuity and the respect to the first events of our modern democracy (instead of the currently widespread and fashionable, de facto anti-democratic, Hitler-like screaming that the system we have is intrinsically or even inevitably corrupt and so on) is something that I find very, very important. So is the genuine rule of law – as opposed to arbitrary decisions of some self-anointed people following some unwritten, would-be "moral" criteria; the genuine freedom and democracy – as opposed to freedoms that only exist for those who agree with the self-anointed ones and the "democratic" selection with the only allowed choice where everyone else is immediately attacked, demonized, and labeled unethical.

I am not hugging the trees in order to extract energy from them. I am just sometimes caressing the bark of such a tree that looks beautiful to me. I am not preparing my opinions at the moment when I am giving an interview or writing a book. They have to be clear to me a long time earlier. Our politics is grey and boring and people are already tired of ripoffs and scandals. But there's an act that is better than to curse the darkness: to light at least one candle. Who doesn't believe in himself shouldn't enter politics at all. To make fun out of other people is only possible if you can make fun of yourself, too. My worst vice is trustfulness but maybe it's my best virtue, too. I have always lived so that I didn't have to be ashamed of myself, and so that my daughter Kateřina didn't have to be ashamed of me. Each president should work for the future. And the future is also kids.

Despite his being an officially and verbally a "leftist" politician and in spite of his opposition to Klaus in the early and mid 1990s (when he sometimes drove me up the wall – and I would consider him Sládek light: but the political struggle ultimately respected the etiquette), he seems like the more right-wing candidate among the two candidates to me in the respects I find most important – undesirability of the power for the uncontrolled "civil society", opposition to the environmental movement and green parties, global warming skepticism, hawkish attitude to foreign matters, especially in the Middle East, defense of basic national interests and belief in the legitimacy of the expulsion of most Germans after the war, and even in minor things such as his opposition to the independence Kosovo.

In the recent two weeks, I was pretty much sure that Zeman would win. My methodology was to look at the results of the first round and estimate the percentage of the voters of other candidates that would switch to Zeman. All the remaining 3 candidates in the top 5 voted for Zeman – Jiří Dienstbier (because he is a social democrat), Jan Fischer (who supported Zeman indirectly, citing anti-nationalism as the problem with Schwarzenberg), and (surprisingly) Vladimír Avatar Franz (most of the aides to these folks, especially Franz, became Schwarzenberg voters but they were not too important). Getting just 60% out of these people's voters would be enough for a smooth Zeman victory – above 55% – despite the unlimited and insane pro-Schwarzenberg brainwashing in pretty much all the media during the last two weeks.

And that's where we are now, 70 minutes after the polls ended. Almost 57% is behind Zeman while 77% have already been counted. It's implausible that Schwarzenberg would still get the edge to win. Why? Only 23% of the votes or districts wait to be counted. Schwarzenberg's percentage is higher in Prague where only 50% of the small districts have been counted but the remainder is not enough for Schwarzenberg to win.

In Prague, Schwarzenberg is getting a 66-34 advantage over Zeman. Half of Prague (which remains uncounted) is the only major part of the votes that exhibits a significant pro-Schwarzenberg bias. Prague is 1/10 of the nation, 1/2 of Prague is therefore 1/20 of the nation, and because the bias in this 1/20 of the nation – to be added – is just 66-34=32 percent in favor of Schwarzenberg, Schwarzenberg is expected to get a boost 32/20 = 1.6 percent from this half of Prague after it will be included. That's much less than those 7 percent he needs to win.

Update: at 15:18, 83% of votes are counted and Zeman is still ahead with 56.5%. Counted votes in Prague where Schwarzenberg still has 66% is approaching 60%. Only 1/25 of the nation – 40% of Prague – has a chance to systematically distort the present percentages. But 32%/25 is much less than 6.5% that the prince needs to eliminate.

Update: at 15:38, less then 100 minutes after the polls ended, 95% is already counted, Zeman stands at 55.6%, 82% of Prague is already counted. The story seems settled to me, I won't add further updates. Zeman will clearly win 55-45 or so.

Tough campaign, possible doubts

It's been a tough campaign in which Zeman was being linked to former communists, agents, criminals, and corruption etc. – all these things are so indirect that one could summarize them as bogus – while potentially anti-Czech, pro-German opinions and plans of the prince (who has lived in Austria for decades) had to be discussed but the media tried to hide them.

When the polls already opened yesterday, Schwarzenberg became upset about a paid commercial in a tabloid (Blesk = Flash) that accurately summarized some of Schwarzenberg's opinions about the Second World War and its consequences and suggested – perhaps speculatively but carefully, I would say – that he is preparing the ground for the returning of the assets to to descendants of the expelled Germans. Schwarzenberg, who has previously claimed that he never gets angry, sued the person behind the ad and got so angry that he submitted an invalid vote himself (he didn't place it in the envelope as required by the law). Schwarzenberg was the only person in his village who was incapable of voting properly; there was, however, one more invalid vote by a person who wanted to elect Thomas Garrigue Masaryk (the founding president of Czechoslovakia) using a specially designed ballot. ;-)

We would read tons of positive articles (and watched positive TV pieces) about Schwarzenberg, his nice and humane wife, the prince's love for soups, cooks in his chateaux who love him, his dissatisfaction with "untrue" claims by the Zeman campaign; and tons of negative articles about Zeman, his contacts with an unpopular ex-communist Šlouf (a good friend of Zeman who is primarily a grandfather of many children these days and who has a pleasant smile – that's how I would summarize this guy whose politics has clearly been alien to me), the fact that no one knows where Zeman's wife Ivana Zemanová is employed as a secretary right now (obviously a story written in order to suggest that she may be corrupt or stealing products in the supermarkets or whatever), and so on.

The anti-Zeman, pro-Schwarzenberg bias of the media has been staggering. It's hard to see whether the whole cultural-media front/complex has really been this brainwashed or whether what we saw was mainly a consequence of the fact that the leading Czech newspapers currently (but not just currently) have German owners. At any rate, it apparently didn't matter much. Zeman suggests that the voters ultimately tend to vote the opposite candidate than what the media prescribe – something that the stupid journalists may fail to see. I think he may be right but I think that the most important drivers that decide about the chosen candidate have nothing to do with some propaganda in the campaign, neither in the positive sense nor in the negative sense.

Now, what can we expect from Zeman?

Global warming skeptics should be happy that climate skepticism keeps the Prague Castle although Zeman has been far less visible in this topic. Your humble correspondent will continue to work on the project that this situation will change. (I think that Zeman's English is somewhat weaker than Klaus', so I would have to work on that, too.) Zeman has been opposing the environmental activists in tons of topics – most characteristically for him, he supported the chopping-down fight against the bark beetle in the Šumava National Park against the green advocacy groups that insisted that the forest must always take care of himself and humans have no right to intervene. But he has said that global warming is one of the topics in which Klaus was wise and right.

Much of the talk about the economy – if he will be active in speaking – will get a more left-wing flavor (he already promises to be a president of the lower 10 million, give me a break with this garbage) but it's the kind of moderate, centrist left-wing flavor I can live with (although the financial disclosures for the wealthy enough people that Zeman seems to advocate in order to fight corruption would almost certainly represent an annoying amount of bureaucracy for me if they would turn out to apply to me) because I think it's mostly Zeman's image from the 1990s by which he produced enough political room for him to compete with Klaus after the Velvet Revolution (Klaus dominated the clearly cut right wing of the spectrum from the beginning). Zeman is otherwise a pro-market guy who realized a very important part of the privatization – privatization of banks – in his tenure as the prime minister (1998-2002) by which he ended the "bank socialism" (things are superficially privately owned except that they are often/mostly owned by banks that are state-owned), something that Klaus was afraid to do for some reasons or whatever, but Klaus simply hadn't done it for years. Much of the qualitative difference in the economic policies between Klaus and Zeman is arguably at the level of words only. Well, I believe that Zeman's natural membership in the "poor class" – he is proud to have lived out of a $700 pension for the last decade – is completely genuine and I have no problem with that, either.

There are many reasons why Zeman's actual policies in the economy (1998-2002, prime minister) were characterized as "hidden Reaganomics". If he will use the adjective "left-wing" for those things, it's just fine with me – it will redefine the adjective "left-wing" to something I don't find terrible. But he won't have much influence over the economy, anyway.

Zeman is officially a Eurofederalist but he denounces the control of Brussels over many things such as the "bans of light bulbs" (he hates fluorescent light bulbs, among other things, and this topic is often picked as his #1 example that the centralization in Brussels may end up with absurd outcomes). Just like Klaus is a national patriot of a sort, Zeman is an intense patriot favoring the "Western civilization", if I put it this way. He supports a preemptive strike against Iran and the redefinition of NATO (ideally with Israel among the members) as an anti-Islamic alliance and be sure that he isn't trying to suggest that it's just some rare special form or feature of Islam that is the problem; it's the real-world Islamic culture itself.

Now, tons of ordinary people, the typical Czech whiners, have voted him because they're truly left-wing (think about various pensioners many of whom preferred the life under communism), unlike your humble correspondent who voted him because he was the more right-wing candidate ;-) but I don't care – this is what we may describe by the words "Zeman is a uniter". :-)

I think that many right-wing voters have already understood the picture and the reasons why I preferred Zeman despite his self-described left-wing image. Of course, Klaus voted for Zeman as well and Zeman's victory means that Klaus doesn't have to emigrate (as he suggested in a text message to a trusted female friend who immediately leaked the text message).

Most of the people on Facebook, in culture, and so on are probably getting shocked right now because an overwhelming majority of them quickly switched to the "only correct choice" which was Schwarzenberg for them. But neither the media nor Facebook are omnipotent, everyone should learn, even if they are very loud and very biased.

And that's the memo.

Bonus: map, reactions

The map: In Pilsen, Schwarzenberg won with 55 percent or so. A few more large cities were similar. Prague, the most pro-Schwarzenberg area of the Czech Republic, gave him 66 percent. That's nothing compared to the Czechs who live abroad – Schwarzenberg stood at 84 percent.

I find Schwarzenberg himself fine but I think that these heavily uniform results deserve to be called the dictatorship of the political correctness or mediocracy. It's driven by some societal pressure in which everyone must vote for the "right thing", a pressure that seems far more prevalent among the people who would like to call themselves the "elite" even though the would-be arguments (personal attacks or, on the contrary, glorification) promoted by the media are usually so incredibly dumbed down that the word "elite" sounds ironic here. The very fact that I would belong to 16 percent of the "expatriate" Czech population – a pretty small minority – if I were still in the U.S. would look a bit worrisome fact to me, after some brutal experience of mine with PC at Harvard.

Poor countryside in Northern Moravia approached 75 percent for Zeman (e.g. around the town of Bruntál) who was also above 60 percent in the Vysočina Hills near the middle of the country where he lived, and got those 55 percent or so in the bulk of the country.

Happy president Klaus wittily said (audio) that by the victory of Zeman, "the truth and love has finally prevailed over the lies and hatred", a favorite slogan of Havel who would surely disagree with the application of it here, however. ;-) Klaus is on his visit of Chile again – I hope he will bring us some nice pens again. :-) Slovakia is mostly satisfied with the choice of Zeman, not only because the first lady will be partly Slovak just like the current one. However, my reading of comments at SME.SK, a PC center-right counterpart of iDNES.CZ, suggests that readers over there are mostly anti-Zeman – but they appreciate that the Czechs have proved that their character is almost identical to the Slovak one. ;-)

I hope that the terror against Zeman voters in various corners where they turned out to be a small minority – victims were actors but even a 12-year-old girl with Zeman-voting parents (unlike the parents of her classmates): the girl was bullied and a big sentence "[her name] is a cu*t" appeared on the blackboard after a class on civil issues in which the teacher aired anti-Zeman YouTube videos, among other things – will stop once Zeman won. But some of the reactions after the results were announced are unbelievably arrogant and bitter – for example, the editor-in-chief of Mr Balšínek wrote a disgusting tirade about all the voters of Zeman who failed to transcend their shadow and... OK, let me stop, I would vomit whenever I see these intellectually average people who would still love to dictate everyone how to live.

Zeman has some personal characteristics and idiosyncratic opinions that are often being used against him. For example, he believes that a huge portion of the journalists are journalistic hyenas of a mediocre intelligence who often try to intervene into things they have no (political or intellectual) credentials to affect. Some people are shocked whenever he reveals that he still thinks so. Needless to say, I completely agree with Zeman on this point and it was one of the numerous reasons why I supported him. The infallibility of mediocre journalists became one of the dogmas of the PC-controlled West and indeed, I am grateful that we may hopefully avoid this cesspool for 5 more years. If a journalist wants to do politics, he or she must be treated as a fair game by a politician and attacked whenever the politician would attack another politician who would be trying to do the same (i.e. demagogy). If a journalist finds something "inappropriate" (read as "inconvenient"), it doesn't mean it shouldn't be discussed, and so on.

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snail feedback (8) :

reader disqus_zPaa3WyuI2 said...

"Schwarzenberg became upset about a paid commercial in a tabloid (Blesk = Flash) that accurately summarized some of Schwarzenberg's opinions about the Second World War and its consequences and suggested – perhaps speculatively but carefully, I would say – that he is preparing the ground for the returning of the assets to to descendants of the expelled Germans"

Really? So let's see what the ad said.

1) "Beneš SHOULD, according to the current law, be tried by Haag tribunal"

Nope. Schwarzenberg said that Beneš WOULD be tried. I think that everybody understands the critical difference. Also, given current law, Schwarzenberg's statement is probably correct. The most debated decree declares a presumption of guilt - if you were German, your property was confiscated, unless you were able to prove that you did not collaborate. This is a notion of collective guilt that is unacceptable by modern law. Also, the reluctance of Benes's government to prosecute or actively stop post-war crimes on German population (regardless how isolated or not, or how understandable or not) is something that would likely bring him to Haag again (it's a situation very similar to that of some Serbian and Croatian leaders).

This does not say anything about whether you agree or disagree with such a trial. It is a matter of fact.

2) "Schwarzenberg thanks Bernd Posselt for his support"

This is an outright lie, as Zavadil (who paid for the ad) himself acknowledged.

3) "Schwarzenberg thinks that the expulsion was unfair, without considering the preceding historical events including World War II"

Only the first part of the sentence is true, and only partly so. Schwarzenberg indeed said that the expulsion was in MANY CASES unfair (which is historically correct). But he also clearly said that we cannot forget what preceded these events, and the historical context.

4) "Schwarzenberg considers the Benes decrees invalid and prepares ground for returning the confiscated property back to the hands of the descendants of war criminals"

Only the first part of the sentence is correct and only because he misspoke and corrected himself later. The distinction is between "invalid" and "ineffective". Of course, the law is legally valid (as Schwarzenberg later stressed), they are only ineffective. They cannot be legally effective - the purpose of the discussed decree was to confiscate the property. This was done, and by doing so, the effect of the law expired. There is nothing to confiscate anymore, so the law cannot have any additional effect.

Schwarzenberg also repeatedly said that the property rights of Czech owners are untouchable and no property can ever be returned.

On top of that, the Czech president has absolutely no legislative or executive power in this matter. He can't invalidate Benes decrees. Even if he could, that would not return any property. In order to do so, the Parliament would have to pass ANOTHER law that would return the property. The president thus can't prepare any ground in this respect.

So, out of these four statements, one is an outright lie and the others are vast misrepresentations of reality. It goes beyond me how you can call this an "accurate summary".

When we add to this fact that this ad was paid for by an elite member of the communist secret police, who is a current prominent lawyer and pushed this ad while knowingly breaking the law (ignoring the requirement that these political ads must identify the person who paid for it) and knowingly lying about the content, we get the whole picture.

reader Shannon said...

Congratulations on your new president Lubos ! And good luck to la République Tchèque !

reader Oliver_K_Manuel said...

I have great respect for your departing President for being one of the first to recognize and comment on the danger of the environmental movement [1].

1. Vaclav Klaus, Blue Planet in Green Shackles (Competitive Enterprise Institute, first edition, 2007) 100 pages,

reader Bep Kororoti said...

V prvním kole jsem volil Dientsbiera, protože mi to přišlo jako nejrozumnější volba, ale lidé se rozhodovali více emocemi a tak tam poslali Zemana a Schwarzenberga - oba kandidáty jsem odmítal, z různých důvodů.
Ale nakonec jsem hlasoval pro Schwarzenberga, protože jsem nemohl hlasovat pro někoho, kdo je arogantní, lže, překrucuje a neustále dává najevo svou povýšenost. Za takového prezidenta bych se musel stydět. Ty lživé inzeráty BÝVALÉHO AGENTA StB tomu daly korunu. Jeho volební tým se od nich samozřejmě distancoval. Holt, Šlouf to umí zařídit. Je smutné, že prezidentem bude někdo s takovými praktikami.

reader Joachim Seifert said...

Interesting analysis and opinion.....the intellectuals of the big towns including the young and the students are "mediocre" as the media.......The real good superior guys, who know what the country needs, are the village people and the unintellectual simple in mind....they have the true knowledge!? Or only the gut feeling?
I bet the village folks are the right people to advance the country to new greatness....(?!?)
Lubos, are you stuck in old [right wing] thinking?
As a foreigner...I wonder....JS.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Joachim, the countryside voted for Zeman for very different reasons than myself, I have already explained it elsewhere.

You know, the real good superior people who understand politics far better than the generic countryside folks or the generic urbanites or pseudointellectuals are people similar to me or Vaclav Klaus.

I am "stuck" in certain "old" values and principles because they have been shown to be the best ones while their forgetting has generally led to the deterioration of the human society, its ethical qualities, and its prosperity.

reader Joachim Seifert said...

2013/1/29 Disqus

reader Brian H said...

Terrific write-up. It seems CR and Poland remain the only 2 sane countries in the EU.

I find myself very glad Zeman will now permanently exit the $700/mo box. (I live in Canada, in the same circumstances as his were, on about twice that.)