Is an oligarchy threat helpful to remind the parties what they should stand for and against?
Yesterday in the afternoon, along with 348,000 viewers above 15 years of age, I spent more than four hours by watching the full live broadcast from the lower chamber of the Czech Parliament. A special session was dedicated to the Stork Nest affair of the finance minister and billionaire Mr Andrej Babiš.
To make the story short, he admitted that he wanted to please his adult daughters – and the brother of his domestic partner – who have always loved horses. So he created a special farm for them which looked uneconomic. So he transferred the Stork Nest Farm to the anonymous stocks which allowed him to get $2 million in EU subsidies (meant to help small businesses that couldn't even get any loan). We have heard that he has lied about the owners during the 5-year-long era of the subsidy because he wanted to protect his kids, as his family is the most precious thing he has, and every parent should understand it.
We can understand it but our understanding of the motivation, even if it is accurate, doesn't mean that we think that he's innocent. Even when someone does something criminal or unethical because of his love for his children etc., he must be held responsible for these acts. Indeed, if he wants to be praised for something he has done for his spoiled brats and Mr Herodes, he should also spend those years in the prison. In fact, I think that by this admission, the kids and the de facto brother-in-law have been named as fellow culprits and it seems reasonable to me to arrest them for several years, too. They applied for a $2 million subsidy claiming to be small-scale enterpreneurs in tourist industry which was a lie – a subsidy-related fraud.
They may have a long time in the prison to thank their daddy who is the actual mastermind of all this stuff.
The resolution that Babiš offered is sort of unsurprising – obviously, he has also stated that everything was legal and/because it was also approved by many regional politicians from many ordinary democratic parties (he uses expletives for these parties instead). We will see whether OLAF, budget fraud investigators in the EU, and the Czech police will agree about the "technical guilt".
As we sort of knew in advance, it was obviously a trick for him to pump $2 million of some undeserved taxpayer money for himself and the people in his immediate vicinity, a trick that is surely unethical and a sort of a "hole in the system" that politicians like him claim to want to fill. (In particular, a favorite talking point that allowed him to be successful in politics were his tirades against [now banned] anonymous stocks, a source of economic crime – but he has used the same anonymous stocks at the very same time to get a $2 subsidy for himself or his daughters. If this is not a staggering hypocrisy, what is?) Babiš has admitted not only that the project was built for his family but also that the idea to get the subsidies (for small businesses in tourist industry) was invented by economists in his Agrofert Holding; and that without the subsidy, the construction wouldn't be economical.
But as I told you, the TV broadcast took four hours – much more than one minute you needed to learn everything important about the scandal from the TRF text above – so you may ask what were the remaining four hours about.
The remaining four hours were about many other things. And most of Babiš's 90-minute-long speech wasn't dedicated to the Stork Nest scandal at all. One could see some of the brutal differences between Babiš's style of politics and the style of politics as represented by the conventional political parties. And while my relationship to ordinary, let's say "center-right" political parties was weakening in recent 10 years or so, I must say that what the leaders of the main center right parties Prof Fiala (ODS) and Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) and others said forced me to say "exactly, I just said it myself". They were expressing my thoughts about the logic and about the broader issues. The main topic is just a marginal subsidy for a marginal farm (just to be sure, I don't think that it's really the most important issue deciding about the Czech Republic, but it may be the most important issue to teach us something about the character of the current finance minister) but at least something.
Yesterday's special parliamentary session was successfully scheduled by the opposition parties after the two non-Babiš coalition parties jumped on the bandwagon and said that the explanation was needed. Babiš's ANO (Anger of Pissed Off Citizens, Akce nasraných občanů) party surrendered and endorsed the session, too. A vice-chairwoman of the Parliament Ms Jermanová (ANO) managed to take over the procedural things. So after a series of votes in which the opposition lawmakers were repeatedly crushed, the opposition wasn't allowed to speak at the beginning – to explain what's the very purpose of this session – and instead, Mr Babiš (the very suspect whose problematic acts have made this session desirable) gave the first monologue. A 90-minute-long one.
For more than an hour, Babiš chaotically spoke mainly about approximately 100 different examples of economic crime or accusations of economic crime in the recent 25 years, about his amazing wealth, about his wonderful work as the finance minister, how the country must be proud about the Stork Nest (the now official co-owner Mr Herodes has already welcomed 27,398 children to the farm; we weren't told how many boys made it out) and mainly about all the people who don't like him and who want to harm him. From his perspective – and sadly, lots of his supporters have the same optics – it's all about himself. There are no values or general principles. The good people are those who lick his rectum at all times while the bad ones are those who never did and especially those who did but who no longer do so.
A partial alphabetically sorted list of the explicitly mentioned enemies of politics of Babiš's party in his yesterday's monologue (via the transcript):
Assad, Bakala, Becher, Bém, Benda, Bursík, Christ, Dobeš, Fuksa, Godfathers, Goldman Sachs, Grässle, Hála, Harvard, Háva, Havlík, Jančura, Janeček, Jankovský, Janoušek, Kalousek, Kapsch, Kašák, Kašák's brother-in-law, Klaus, Köppel, Kožený, Kroupa, Kubátová, Kušnierz, Leschtina, Moravec, Mrázek, Nečas, Němcová, Ondračka, Roman, Řebíček, Savov, Schwarzenberg, Slonková, Soukup, Spurný, Šafr, Šarapatka, Šimáně, Šlechtová, Šulc, Topolánek, Wagenknecht (and also four main enemies who keep on undermining Babiš's great plans: spring, summer, autumn, and winter)I do appreciate his business to some extent – he owns a multi-billion Agrofert holding working in agriculture and food industry. And I do believe that much of this financial success has to be due to some genuine skills and lots of work much of which was genuinely useful for the consumers and the nation, too. But holy cow: he's still just a farmer who depends on rather simple-minded things as well as subsidies and who just happened to grow bigger than others and who devoured many others. People with the typical thinking of a farmer – and he is one – are simply not in the league of becoming natural leaders for most reasonable voters; and they are not the right people to control much more general things than agriculture and the budget in some very technical sense.
More importantly, this session isn't about his successes or failures in the business. (He also complained that two needles were found in his smoked meat recently – and implicitly proposed, without a glimpse of evidence, some conspiracy theories linking the needles to his most well-known political opponents who could be behind the needles.) It was about a particular problem, a subsidy that a farm he invented (I think he was inspired by the Bird Nest, the Peking Olympic Stadium, if I avoid the term plagiarism) and that he owns has received a few years ago – and whether it's a problem for his being the main "inspector" who supervises the EU subsidies in the Czech Republic. He was unable or unwilling to focus or analyze any of the relevant questions in sufficient detail.
A disco remix of Babiš's talk.
I think that many people could guess that he was just unwilling to do so. It's in his interest to spread the fog about $2 million he has received for his daughters etc. But I actually tend to think that he is unable to focus or study problems – including his problems – with some rigor. At the end, I believe that this man has an incredibly low intelligence, and so do most of his supporters, and it's this serious mental handicap that has prevented him from making an on-topic speech yesterday.
People may instinctively object: this guy has to be smart because he's become so wealthy, and so on. Well, I don't think that this reasoning is right. It seems more plausible that even in the business, he has become this successful because of a combination of his contacts from the communist era (he was responsible for some exports to exotic countries, too), his immense egotism and shoulders, with his constant whining and sympathy he's getting from the most lowly people in the nation because they always see that he is like one of them and he thinks like one of them.
There are many reasons why I think that his IQ is actually very low. One of them is the extreme narrow-mindedness, superficiality, and repetitiveness of his talks. For example, during his speech, he repeated almost verbatim what he said about the birth of the Stork Nest. "I was waiting with my kids to feed the goats in the Prague zoo and then I realized that it would be great to have a private zoo of a sort." Those who followed this scandal have heard this story in this video. Incidentally, Babiš previously said that those who leaked the video were very nasty and the content was taken out of context and blah blah. But now he agreed it was 100% accurate. We're gradually learning that he has lied about pretty much everything – and he has unjustifiably attacked people just for speaking the truth. What are his other important lies?
But his complete inability to deal with any new ideas or any deep or detailed ideas may be seen through the format of his criticisms and rants. The problem is that a very simple hypothetical algorithm is compatible with everything he has ever said about any scandal or purported scandal:
- Look who is licking his rectum.
- Collect all the bad stories that the most ordinary people have ever said about the people, and put them into special folders (in the same way that was used by the communist secret police).
- Cherry-pick and repeat all the bad stories about all those who weren't recently licking Babiš's rectum.
- Present these stories in such a way that all the losers in the nation think that their rectums are perfectly entangled with Babiš's, so these rectums' being licked is the most important thing in the world.
He has attacked about 50 different people in his chaotic rant – rant that Prof Fiala aptly compared to the legendary comical Summer 1989 "Fencepost speech" [also: transcript] at the Červený Hrádek farm, a talk that the last totalitarian boss of the Communist Party gave to his regional comrades in a rural suburb of Greater Pilsen 1 mile from my home (and, embarrassingly enough for Jakeš and his laugh-inducing awkward situation and stupidity, the audio and later video leaked). Incidentally, already in Summer 1989, before communism fell, I pretty much memorized the whole Fencepost speech. (The speech is often referred to as the Fencepost speech because Jakeš whined that the Central Committee of the Communist Party didn't get any support from others. So you, comrades, have to support us against Havel etc., otherwise we feel like a lonely fencepost. But he said tons of wrong or very funny things. For example: Take, for example, Ms Hana Zagorová [a top singer]. It's a pretty girl, everything, but she has been receiving over CSK 600 000 every year for several years. And other ones, Jandas and others. Not 600 000, they get a million, two millions. By chance, those didn't protest [they didn't sign Several Words, a 1989 anti-communist petition by artists; except that one Janda, Petr, did sign it]. But others who live this well, did protest. And when they talk to them, they don't even know why they signed it and what they signed.)
And all these people criticized in Babiš's speech were attacked because they did something that Babiš thought wasn't great for him personally. I or others could criticize those people for various things as well – but it would have nothing to do with the reasons why Babiš assaulted them. In most cases, I don't even realize that those people have ever interacted with Babiš in any way – so why should I believe that their relationship to a wealthy bumpkin is the #1 criterion that determines what kind of humans (or professionals) they are? It's just totally insane.
Let me mention a dozen of examples of all the "bad" people in the world whom Babiš attacked in his tirade. (Again, I must emphasize that except for the existence of their interactions with Babiš and his interests, those people have pretty much nothing to do with each other, let alone with the topic that was the reason for the parliamentary session.)
Journalist Pavel Šafr. I wrote about 10 articles for his magazine some 5 years ago – and met him in a Prague pub once. He's a very skillful editor who knows how to increase sales although the character of his magazines seems too tabloid-like to me. But Babiš decided that it's all about himself, Babiš. So when he didn't like something that Šafr wrote, Babiš called Šafr a psychopath. A week ago, a court decided that it was a libel and Babiš has to pay $2,000 – that is unlikely to make his company bust LOL. But yesterday, he assaulted the "bastard and psychopath, what's his name" – without using the name "Šafr". The reason? Šafr co-organized a Walk of the Storks, a funny event in front of the Parliament with people dressed as storks who actually wanted to say that they don't want Czechia to be transformed to a big stork nest. (Babiš claimed that the Walk of Storks was co-organized by Mr Bursík, an ex-leader of the Green Party and a political tourist who has been a member of very many parties of all colors.) Now, Šafr and pals are just creatively making fun out of a genuine scandal affecting the finance minister. He surely finds it inconvenient but that's not a valid excuse for calling Šafr "bastard and psychopath".
The wealthy director of TV Barandov Mr Soukup is going after Babiš's neck, too, we were told, and Babiš is crying because of that. In the case of Mr Soukup and many similar cases, Babiš mentions a "deal that didn't work out" and that soured the relationship, and that's why all these people are trying to revenge to Babiš now. So Babiš didn't want to buy Soukup's TV in the past, or something like that, which is why TV Barandov reporters are allegedly going after Babiš's neck. Simlarly, some individuals weren't hired by Babiš as ministers or directors or something and they're trying to revenge to Babiš for those things. We heard about 10 examples of that. In Babiš's optics, absolutely everything is personal and absolutely everything revolves around himself.
You know, this explanation may be right or partially right in many or all cases. But even if they are trying to revenge, it shows how Babiš's "big shoulders business" way of doing things is simply unacceptable in democratic politics. In business, one can do things against the competition or job applicants or potential business partners and most others that are tough, but if the lawyers find out that what you did was legal, you can survive with that. But as a minister etc., you're supposed to be a servant of a whole nation, someone who does things that have a chance to be understood and appreciated by everyone and that are actually understood by a majority, not just by your family or closest people or a clique or a fan club.
If you show your big shoulders to too many people or if you refuse their offers, you will probably have enemies (even though I am convinced that the criticisms against Babiš are far more legitimate, impersonal, and about the issues than he is willing to admit – or than he is even able to imagine). It's predictable and there's nothing unsurprising or illegal about their sour emotions. In politics, one simply has to try to do things that are good for a very large fraction of the nation. And the combative style of someone in the business who can beat 95% of competitors just isn't suitable for politics. A nation isn't like a firm because it simply doesn't belong to one owner. Everyone has enemies but it's obvious that a guy like Babiš has many enemies. It's very dangerous when a person like him becomes powerful in politics because he may abuse the political power to damage lots of people just because they're inconvenient for him. Conflicts of interests become dangerous if the person has too many "other issues" he would like to "solve", and if he gets too many "new tools" to do so. When it happens, the tools start to work in the interest of a particular random mixture of issues relevant for (and defining) the single politician, instead of being the impersonal mechanisms that were designed to solve or improve some problems.
So Mr Babiš used his speech – which was supposed to explain the ownership of the Stork Nest but became a pre-election campaign speech addressed to the stupidest voters, something that an intelligent viewer had to suffer through (I said these things to myself before Prof Fiala summarized his impression from Babiš's speech in the same way) – to attack lots of "former business partners" and potential business partners. But he has actually attacked a very large number of people who have been his supporters up to very recently, too.
Mr Karel Janeček, a mathematician and billionaire (fast algorithmic trading company RSJ) whom I know in person know, is also a boss of his own anti-corruption NGO of a sort. I have always considered Janeček's views on politics to be weird and extremely naive (and I think that his family background – his father was a member of the communist state police of a sort – hasn't improved his understanding of how a democratic country can work, either) but he was close enough to Babiš until recently. Largely because of the Stork Nest scandal, Janeček is gradually distancing himself from Babiš.
For this reason, Janeček immediately became a target of Babiš's rant, too. What was Janeček's sin? Janeček has used some tax heavens in some islands or whatever. It's very interesting that we've never heard such a complaint about Janeček from Babiš's mouth at the times when these two guys were allies in the fight (as they claimed) against economic crimes, corruption, and tax evasion! And Babiš has similarly surprisingly attacked several other "so far allied" anti-corruption NGOs. Suddenly, their main leaders are hardcore criminals, too.
The owner of breweries Mr Bernard asked to be erased from Babiš's website as his supporter, too. He wasn't mentioned in speech, I think. But another successful businessman, Mr Jančura who runs successful private railways, used to be a supporter of Babiš who denounced the Babiš weeks ago. The reason is not the Stork Nest but Babiš's being a "lousy politician". Jančura points out that Babiš is simply throwing away the money he collects way too carelessly – at the regional level etc. I think that this criticism is completely right. Babiš himself claimed that their relationships got bad because Jančura is constantly "terrorizing" Babiš by his recommendations what to do with the state-owned railways. Jančura, I think totally justifiably (but also with the self-evident personal motivation), wants to level the field in the railway industry so that the state-owned railways don't enjoy too many advantages relatively to his much more efficient private company (and another private competitor Leo). Babiš prefers to preserve socialism in most of the railway industry which is why the Jančura-Babiš alliance weakened a lot. It's totally understandable – Babiš is a former communist director and probably snitch while Jančura is a genuine pioneer of the new capitalism. So they have different ideas about privatization of railways and related things. But what's striking is that Babiš doesn't present this disagreement as a conflict of ideas or values at all. He criticized Jančura because he finds Jančura's requests personally inconvenient. For Babiš, it's all about Babiš. And there are lots of voters who must like this obnoxious whining he presented yesterday – they must think that it's all about Babiš, too. Is a billionaire someone who has the credential to whine at all?
Now, lots of journalists. Ondráčka, Moravec, were insulted, too... Moravec is perhaps the most famous host of "serious" TV discussion programs about politics. Sometimes, he looks like one of the Prague Café folks, but I often think that he's doing a nontrivially good job, too. Things are mixed but I think he has a clear talent to talk clearly, culturally, and ask relevant questions (even if some of them may look loaded to me). But when Babiš criticized Moravec, he said that Moravec is getting a decent salary from the taxpayer money – surely not the only one – and he dared to criticized Babiš, anyway. I've watched Moravec very many times but I have never noticed that Moravec would be a chronic critic of Babiš. In fact, I don't realize such I've seen any example of that. But you know, it's a part of the job description of the public TV (and other) journalists to look critically at the powerful politicians. In your communist regime, Comrade Babiš, it didn't work in this way but after 1989, it does. So a journalist's not-so-uncritical attitude to a powerful politician is indeed not an "automatic vice" of the journalist – perhaps it's closer to the opposite.
He divided all such hosts on TV to good ones and bad ones according to their personal relationship to himself. So Ms Jílková, the host of reality-show-like 3-on-3 debates with live audiences, is a "good one" because she invited him and allowed him to promote himself, while someone who criticized her program automatically becomes a "bad guy". He wants to polarize the whole society and every employee of any company and organization to the good ones who lick his rectum and the bad ones who don't. Is that really what our country should reduce to? I would never care about some rich farmer and former communist. Why are his personal interests presented as the top political issue of my whole country?
But the most far-reaching attacks are those against the Parliamentary democracy. Like Hitler and many similar people, Babiš absolutely hates the Parliamentary democracy. For him, the Parliament is just a "place to blather". He just sacrificed himself when he went to politics, he says in 20% of his sentences. Imagine how incredibly hypocritical this description of the Parliament is after Babiš's 90-minute speech in which he blathered about 100 different conspiracy theories (and insulted a hundred of people) that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue he was supposed to solve. Lawmakers sometimes blather but Babiš is undoubtedly among the worst offenders in this respect. It's crazy to turn him into a "warrior against blathering in the Parliament" because he is a top violator. It's also insane to turn him into the "top supervisor over leaks of taxpayer's money" because he's at least a suspect of being a top thief who is stealing from the public funds.
His main political enemy is his predecessor, ex-finance minister Miroslav Kalousek. (I had a brief Twitter exchange with Kalousek yesterday, one about a joke on Babiš's horses and strawmen.) Kalousek has been named the best finance minister of the world once, and so on, and Babiš just can't stand him. So Babiš has used Kalousek's name (as well as the term "corrupt ODS" for the center-right party founded by Klaus) about 30 times in the talk although the affair has nothing to do with Kalousek. Can't he simply use the normal short names of the parties? Is there really a demand among his stupid voters for hearing the word "corrupt" everytime before the acronym ODS appears? Numerous politicians were named and attacked by Babiš in person and Babiš also showed a banner with the photographs of some politicians with borderline obscene comments. The vice-chairwoman of the Parliament from his own party repeatedly had to ask him to avoid personal insults. She can become the next target because she wasn't licking his rectum mindlessly enough.
(Babiš has also insulted a female German EU politician Ingeborg Grässle – a boss of a committee in the EU Parliament or what is she – who recently said that the conflict of interest around Babiš has always been a problem and the Stork Nest seems to be a particular one, too. As far as I can see, this CDU politician didn't say anything controversial but we learned that he has met her and "she does these things because she dislikes the Czech Republic", maybe because "Czech informants are coming to her office to say bad things about us". He presented no evidence for this "explanation" and it seems clear that it's the cheapest possible way to reply to an inconvenient assertion by a German that may be found sufficient by the cheapest Czech voters. The criticism came from Germany so it must be because of some Czech-German disharmony. Give me a break with this garbage, Comrade Babiš. Hours after Babiš's speech, the German politician correctly said that Babiš's words were an "unnecessary attack". Again, she encouraged the Czech lawmakers to change the rules so that influential businessmen aren't politicians at the same moment. She also diplomatically pointed out that Czechia was actually her #1 tourist destination in recent years and she respects Babiš for his business.)
There are lots of politicians – people whom I could call "my representatives" and the representatives of millions of Czechs – whom Babiš has assaulted and offended with no conceivable justification. But I must pick an attack that I viewed as a particularly disgusting one, one against Mr Marek Benda, because this attack clearly shows what kind of a clear reversal of Parliamentary democracy towards the totalitarian era the rise of Mr Babiš represents (or may represent if it continues).
Babiš has spent about 5 minutes by personally talking about Mr Marek Benda who represents all the "rotten politics" where nothing is ever done. What's Benda's sin? "Benda the legend", as Babiš said (it rhymes in Czech), has been a lawmaker for 24 years now. What a terrible sin and incredible patience to be a professional lawmaker, Babiš suggests, and the dirty rabble that votes for him often shares this sentiment. All these comments look like carbon copies of some speeches by Hitler in the 1920s.
What Babiš didn't say is that before the early 1990s, Benda and his family weren't working in official politics. In fact, Benda is a guy from a major dissident family. His father Mr Václav Benda was a top (Catholic) dissident, not much less important than e.g. Havel. Benda Sr spent the years 1979-1983 in a communist prison. I would hear Mr Václav Benda's name on Radio Free Europe all the time but before and after the fall of communism, I admired Benda Sr for many other reasons. They were living in really tough conditions – and it was thanks to communists (and probably snitches) such as Babiš.
In the early 1990s, Marek Benda joined his father in politics (the father died 10 years after the Velvet Revolution). He co-organized the Velvet Revolution as a student leader of a sort (not the most important one) and became a professional politician soon after the revolution. It's natural. He's been present when the transformation of the totalitarian communist Czechoslovakia or Czechia into a modern parliamentary democratic capitalist country was taking place. He has worked on many of these laws that made this possible. Even though he's a guy without charisma, he is really a political veteran today. Meanwhile, Babiš spent the same 25 years by "applying" the new opportunities that folks like Benda created, and by filling his pockets with billions of dollars. And now, Babiš - a former communist and probably former communist snitch who was ruining the dissident families' lives for 42 years – comes to the Parliament and presents Mr Benda – a canonical example of a dissident whose family was suppressed for these 42 years – as the ultimate loser for his being a veteran politician (for very long 24 years – compare 24 and 42) who was active in this critical epoch of the Czechoslovak and Czech history?
It's just disgusting. Mr Marek Benda has nothing to be ashamed of. Mr Babiš is a giant super-arrogant communist aßhole and the people who support him in these disgusting attacks against the Parliamentary democracy and freedom of the Czech Republic are despicable scum. You can't expect me not to hate Babiš when he insults people who are among my rather natural representatives in the Parliament in this way – and, even more importantly, the values they have been working to defend for decades. He presents the whole post-Velvet-Revolution era – something I am immensely proud of – as an era of theft, despite the fact that the thieves were a relatively marginal issue and he is probably closest to this group. What sort of human garbage may take these pro-totalitarian, anti-democracy tirades seriously?
But my title was optimistic and I wanted to end on an optimistic note, too. I carefully listened to all the statements done by the center-right ODS and TOP 09 parties. At various points, Klaus-founded ODS and especially TOP 09 defined themselves with some kind of a political correctness that was presented as an opposition to Klaus and his ideas and heritage (market economy without adjectives and so on). I have never liked it much because this anti-Klaus political correctness was both unfair and strongly correlated with other kinds of political correctness that were gradually turning these parties into ideologically directionless, nominally right-wing but de facto left-wing clones of some other centrist and left-wing parties.
What these parties are saying about Babiš, his political style, his proposed policies (like the outrageous new bureaucracy he has prepared for all the other entrepreneurs), and now about the methods he deals with his scandal is spot on. What they said wasn't identical to my blog post above but the overlap in the ideas was immense. I have always voted and with one exception of a vote for Mach (whom we sent to the European Parliament), I've always voted for ODS (when parties were competing). For a decade or so, my "excitement" about that choice was very limited. But it's back. If the elections took place tomorrow, I would probably vote for ODS and would do so very happily again. ODS doesn't have everything that I admired in Klaus's ODS etc. but it has enough of the things I care about.
It's also nice to see TOP 09 as a party I could support. Just to be sure, it's a self-described center-right party but the reason why it exists was partly some kind of an anti-Klaus sentiment, too (and another generation of the parties describing themselves as warriors against corruption etc.). In the 2013 presidential elections, TOP 09's Schwarzenberg ran for the president and I became certain that Zeman was a better choice for me. Schwarzenberg is a decent guy etc. but the times have changed and the politics seems to be in a post-Klaus and also post-Schwarzenberg era of a sort (despite the fact that Klaus would be more than ready and strong enough to be employed in 5 top political jobs now). Especially in the case of Klaus, it's a loss of a sort, but it's refreshing, too.
One can see that many of the animosities were partially personal in character. ODS and TOP 09 are very close to each other these days – their new big common enemy, Babiš, is obviously a major reason for that – and as far as I could say, they could merge into one party now, too. Some defragmentation of the political landscape could be logical. The drift has worked in such a way that the gap separating them has become an anachronism, a thing of the past. And the chairmen of the two parties Fiala and Kalousek agreed to refer to each other as "my very distinguished colleague" which I find sort of elegant and funny, especially because they chose almost the same words.
Needless to say, while this re-emerging idea that the mainstream right-wing parties are ready to stand for something important for me and articulate ideas clearly is a silver lining, this optimistic observation happens on the background of a big deterioration of the overall picture. While I may imagine that I vote for ODS if not TOP 09 rather happily (although their excessive hostility towards Russia, too mindless attitude to current U.S. foreign policy, and a few other topics get a No from me), the problem is that both of these parties seem to be below 10%, so below 20% (estimates for elections) in total. This is very weak because both social democracy and Babiš's party would score above 20% in elections if they took place tomorrow.
When the coalition of Babiš's ANO, social democrats, and the Christian democrats (smallest party) was getting started 2 years ago, I thought that Babiš would be the most natural "silver lining" in the coalition government (well, maybe after the Christian democrats). He is a rich businessman now so he must be pro-business, and so on. But right now, I do think that Babiš and his party (and the political style it represents etc.) is actually the greatest problem. Social democrats may be more left-wing than Babiš in some issues but they're much more likely to preserve the Parliamentary democracy and capitalism as we knew them – against the attempts to transform the country into an "effective and just because Babiš says so" dictatorial system. The incompatibility of Babiš with the democratic system – and a system where people enjoy the basic protection whether or not they despise the current finance minister etc. – and its values is so deep and visceral that I would be grateful even for a grand left-right coalition that would eliminate Babiš from politics again.
Too many voters seem to be too stupid to do that so it may be the police that may do the badly needed job of eliminating this primitive, dangerous, egotist individual from politics – and especially reducing the power of the low-quality people who find his style and goals attractive. If the OLAF investigators in the EU find that the subsidy was wrong, the Czech taxpayers will have to fund the ($2 million?) fine from their wallet. The EU can't directly arrest Babiš and his relatives but they may supply the Czech police with the evidence needed to act. In that case, it would be a question of sovereign Czech institutions whether Babiš could end in the prison or not etc. It's sort of refreshing to see an example of a cause when I could prefer less sovereignty of Czechia because I do think that Babiš would be more likely to be punished according to some Western European judges.