Saturday, January 26, 2013

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.