República Checa

Czech Prime Minister and founding leader of ANO Andrej Babis votes on October 8.

Want to save our democracy from Trumpism? One approach is to follow the blueprint that led to last week's surprising defeat of Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who's also known as the Czech Donald Trump.

Babis, a billionaire tycoon at the forefront of Czech politics since 2011, was elected as prime minister in 2017. He's spewed anti-immigrant rhetoric, proposed disbanding the Czech Senate and was a loud critic of Western European alliances like the EU -- all while being a fan of Hungary's far-right leader Viktor Orban. Just before the election, the right-wing populist was also accused of controversial business dealings -- allegations Babis in essence dubbed "fake news".…  Seguir leyendo »

Indudablemente, es muy fácil señalar con el dedo al culpable. Es el Gobierno del partido Ley y Justicia (PiS en sus siglas polacas), que acudió a la cumbre de Bruselas con un solo nombre en su agenda: el de Frans Timmermans. Sin embargo, el primer ministro Mateusz Morawiecki no quería que fuese elegido, sino más bien vetarlo como candidato para el puesto de presidente de la nueva Comisión Europea. Timmermans, primer vicepresidente de la Comisión saliente, supervisó en Polonia los procedimientos disciplinarios por infringir el Estado de derecho. Hablamos —sin exageración alguna— del político occidental más odiado por la derecha polaca.…  Seguir leyendo »

A boy holds Czech flags during a rally demanding the resignation of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis last month in Prague. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, on June 23, in Prague’s Letna Park, more than a quarter-million people assembled, this time calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babi s. It was the largest mass protest in the Czech capital since the 1989 Velvet Revolution elevated former dissident Vaclav Havel to the presidency in 1990.

Both then and now, the mass protests have been organized by civil society activists who acted against governing elites perceived as self-serving and corrupt. The Velvet Revolution protests pursued liberal democracy. Today’s activists seek to defend it against populism. When populism undermines democracy, mobilizing civil society may be the last firewall in its defense.…  Seguir leyendo »

More than 250,000 people gathered in central Prague on Sunday, June 23, 2019, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his government. Protesters carried the flag of the European Union. (Photo courtesy of Milada Anna Vachudova.)

On June 23, organizers estimate that more than 250,000 protesters in Prague gathered to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš — and for loosening the control of the ANO party and his company, Agrofert, on the country.

What’s the story behind the largest protest in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution in 1989? Here’s what you need to know.

Protesters claim that Babiš is subverting the independence of the judiciary by appointing a justice minister unlikely to act against him in a fraud case involving the misuse of European Union subsidies designated for small businesses. Separately, a preliminary investigation revealed last month by the European Commission found Babiš in violation of E.U.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lo que se llevó aquel agosto de 1968

El 23 de agosto de 1968, la disidente rusa Natalia Gorbanevskaya, junto con otros nueve opositores, estaba en la plaza Roja de Moscú para protestar contra la invasión de Checoslovaquia por las tropas soviéticas, que había sucedido dos días antes. Natalia llevaba una pancarta en la mano y otra en el cochecito de su hijo de un año, pidiendo la inmediata retirada de las tropas. Antes de que la policía secreta los detuviera, Natalia tuvo la oportunidad de ver un Volga negro que salía del Kremlin y cruzaba la plaza Roja. Dentro del coche oficial se encogía el líder de la Primavera de Praga, Alexandr Dubcek, vencido y aniquilado.…  Seguir leyendo »

Earlier this month, the parliament of the Czech Republic approved a new government. And here’s the surprise: For the first time since the fall of communism in 1989, the governing coalition is depending on support from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM).

This unlikely scenario unfolded after months of negotiations. Nine parties won seats in the October 2017 election, with the populist ANO (Yes) party claiming the largest share — 78 of 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. This left ANO short of the majority needed to approve the prime minister and the governing cabinet.

ANO then had to negotiate with other parties to form a coalition.…  Seguir leyendo »

La Primavera de Praga, en realidad, empezó un 5 de enero y acabó abruptamente un 20 de agosto, fechas que cabalgan sobre la primavera propiamente dicha de aquel convulso año de 1968. Es curioso que hoy, 50 años después, conservamos recuerdos más vivos de la guerra de Vietnam, del asesinato de Martin Luther King y Robert Kennedy, y por supuesto del famoso Mayo francés. La Primavera de Praga se ha ido esfumando en nuestras memorias, viajas a Praga y el tema puede salir sobre todo con algunos amigos y conocidos que vivieron aquel episodio, que vivieron el drama con 25 años y ahora tienen 75. …  Seguir leyendo »

He isn’t the country’s most important politician. In the Czech Republic, as in many European countries, the prime minister is far more powerful than the president. Nevertheless, the Czech president represents his country abroad, speaks on its behalf and generally helps set the tone and tenor of public debate, much like the American president does in the United States. And without question, the reelection of Milos Zeman — who is vulgar and sexist (not to mention aggressively pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-European and anti-NATO) and has been accused of public drunkenness — will set the tone and tenor of public life in the Czech Republic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Voters in the Czech Republic are preparing for their most important election since 1989. On Jan. 26, they will begin heading to the polls to pick their next president. The winner of the first round of the two-stage election earlier this month was the incumbent Milos Zeman, who is facing a strong runoff challenge from Jiri Drahos, a pro-western centrist and the former head of the Academy of Sciences. As of now, the race is considered too close to call.

For Czechs, Zeman needs little introduction. He has spent his first five-year term excoriating migrants and Muslims, whipping up fears of terrorism, and praising President Vladimir Putin of Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Czech billionaire Andrej Babis adjusts his tie after meeting with Czech Republic’s president, Milos Zeman, at the Lany Castle in Lany, Czech Republic. (AP)

Czech party politics used to be fairly simple. But since 2010, its elections have repeatedly delivered instability and fragmentation. And this past Sunday’s voting shows 2017 is no exception.

As expected, Andrej Babiš’s party ANO won the Czech elections with nearly 30 percent of the vote. His victory has dominated the headlines in the United States and Europe, but the election also was striking for the collapse of the Social Democrats (ČSSD), the rise of new political forces and a fragmented Parliament with nine parties.

Why did the Social Democrats do so badly?

ČSSD’s share of the vote slumped to 7.3 percent, its worst performance since the early 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Andrej Babis, the leader of Ano, an anti-establishment party that won 30 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. Credit Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Communist Europe collapsed in the early 1990s, four countries on its western periphery — the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary — came together to form the Visegrad Group. The four were relatively modernized, and the goal of the new organization was to coordinate closer ties between them and the European Union, which they joined en masse in 2004.

The Visegrad Group once stood as a beacon for post-Communist integration, but today it symbolizes the failure of the West to completely integrate Central and Eastern Europe. Across all four countries, leading politicians agitate against the European Union, portraying it as an imposing, undemocratic force, even as the second coming of the Soviet Union.…  Seguir leyendo »

A poster depicting Andrej Babis hangs on a bus stop near the town of Benesov, Czech Republic. It says, “This is not Babis’s land.” (David W. Cerny/Reuters)

The parallels are easy to draw. A rich businessman who has played on anti-establishment and anti-politician appeals looks set to win the Czech elections this week, with voters going to the polls Friday and Saturday. But the real question is not why Andrej Babis, who has inevitably been described as a Trump-like figure, has so much support. It’s why he has managed to increase his support since the 2013 elections.

In 2013, Babis’s party, the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO), an acronym that spells “yes” in Czech, won 18.65 percent in national parliamentary elections. Its pitch was straight out of the new-party-led-by-a-businessman playbook: Trust me, I’m a successful businessman, and I know how to get things done.…  Seguir leyendo »

Monday is the 25th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. To mark the occasion, a bust of Václav Havel, the leader of that revolution, Czechoslovakia’s first post-Communist president and one of the most significant intellectual and political leaders of the Cold War era and its aftermath, will be unveiled Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol. Only three other international figures have been honored in this way — Britain’s Winston Churchill, Hungary’s Lajos Kossuth and Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg — and Havel eminently deserves to be among them.

When he addressed a joint session of Congress just three months after the revolution, Havel spoke with deep feeling about his country’s indebtedness to the United States, including for President Woodrow Wilson’s great support for the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The global economy is still struggling to overcome the effects of the recession sparked by the 2008 financial crisis. But energy — in particular, shale gas exploration — has become one of the strongest engines for the U.S. economy. U.S. natural gas production has increased by one-fourth in the past five years, according to the Energy Information Administration; it has created 600,000 jobs since 2009 and helped drive down gas prices for millions of Americans. Moreover, the United States is now in a position to export gas. This surplus creates opportunities for the United States to again be a geopolitical player in Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

A middle-aged man sits in a cafe, sipping absinthe, the newspaper before him untouched. He stares at a shapely young woman perched mysteriously on the corner of his table. Naked as Eve, she is a translucent green. A waiter hovers nearby. Painted in 1901, Viktor Oliva’s “Absinthe Drinker” hangs in the venerable Cafe Slavia, which opened in 1884 and was a redoubt of dissident artists, from Vaclav Havel to Jiri Kolar, during the Communist era. Its temptress seems a fitting muse for a city where the absurdities of the public realm have often encouraged a retreat into the alcoholic and the erotic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is speaking Thursday at Florida International University on Vaclav Havel’s legacy of freedom. Havel led Czechs in opposing communism and was elected president in the country’s first free elections. He died last winter, but is remembered as Central Europe’s conscience of our times. His personal courage essay, The Power of the Powerless, provides hope to men and women fighting despotism everywhere.

Albright and Havel were born in what Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister and appeaser of the Nazis, called “a far-away country about which we know nothing.” Albright, a scholar who also served as U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Oct. 18, 1989, Czech security police arrested me and 15 Czech dissidents in order to prevent us from meeting in a public place in Prague. Vaclav Havel was part of our group, but he evaded arrest because he arrived late. Later that day, after most of us had been released from detention, we met informally at the Intercontinental Hotel. In just one month Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” would begin, though none of us would have predicted it at the time.

But change was in the air. The dissidents were bemoaning what they saw as a lack of leadership for the future.…  Seguir leyendo »

La decisión de nuestra sociedad de apartarse por completo del comunismo, y que últimamente ha adoptado forma de ley, ha tenido como consecuencia lógica el que la atención prestada a los acontecimientos de 1968 en Checoslovaquia se limite ahora fundamentalmente a criticar la falta de entusiasmo y el antagonismo interno de los políticos comunistas de la reforma que entonces dirigían el país. Por consiguiente, sería aconsejable, en el XXV aniversario de la invasión de Checoslovaquia por parte de los ejércitos del Pacto de Varsovia recordar también otros factores y dimensiones de aquellos acontecimientos.

Ante todo, no hay que olvidar que los cambios conceptuales y de personas que tuvieron lugar a principios de 1968 en la cúpula del Partido Comunista, así como en el Gobierno, no fueron sólo una especie de golpe entre los líderes comunistas.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a stadium in Prague, 20 years ago today, a hundred thousand people, including my father and me, saw something we were not supposed to see. For decades it had been forbidden. The music, we were told, would poison our minds with filthy images. We would be infected by the West’s capitalist propaganda.

It was a cool August night in 1990; the Communist regime had officially collapsed eight months earlier, when Vaclav Havel, the longtime dissident, was elected president. And now the Rolling Stones had come to Prague.

I was 16 then, and to this day I recall the posters promoting the concert, which lined the streets and the walls of the stadium: “The Rolling Stones roll in, Soviet army rolls out.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Tema: El miedo a convertirse en Grecia ha influido en las elecciones checas. El perfil del nuevo gobierno: ¿será europeísta o euroescéptico?

Resumen: En la República Checa, país con etiqueta de euroescéptico, se ha formado un nuevo gobierno tras unos inesperados resultados. La mayoría de los votantes han mostrado un enorme deseo de renovación y han barrido con su voto a partidos y líderes que dominaban el escenario político hasta hace unas semanas. El gobierno resultante es producto de las negociaciones de tres partidos: dos de formación reciente (TOP 09 y VV) y el ODS, partido euroescéptico que ha gobernado en este país intermitentemente (desde 1992 a 1998 y desde 2006 a 2009).…  Seguir leyendo »