Written by: Philippe Riboton
SO WE NOW have a new president. It would seem logical to congratulate
each other and begin looking forward to a new era - full of hope,
with great expectations. The only problem is that nobody here really
seems to be looking forward to anything. Nobody seems to have much
hope, either. And quite naturally, nobody seems to have great expectations.
Why should this be? Those familiar with local politics will point
out that the president in the Czech political system doesn't have
much power. Those with a more cynical view will say that Prague
Castle's new tenant may do less harm to the country where he is
now. Still, having an ultra-liberal politician elected with the
votes of the communists begs some questions. Does Klaus' appointment
really summarize the ten-year history of Czech democracy? Can anyone
imagine that this is the message the Czech Republic wants to send
to the world? Certainly not. This election seems more like the epitome
of a divorce between the Czech political world and Czech citizens.
Let's be honest - the Czech communist party cannot pretend to be
more than it really is: a marginal representation of the "good
old" generation, ready to make any shady deal as long as it
can offer some juicy retirement to its dinosaurs; a kind of Viagra
rejuvenation program for politicos. Nor can Klaus pretend he truly
represents the voice of Czech society in the third millennium; he's
a figurehead of the past and his achievements speak for themselves.
His vision for the national economy has left a black hole from tunneled
banks and companies. His moral stance has allowed white-collar crooks
to systematically siphon the country's assets, which are now quietly
sleeping in off-shore accounts. His dictatorial party management
has killed every truly liberal initiative in its embryonic form,
as well as every new representative ready to offer a fresh version
of liberalism. What a legacy. It leaves us with at least one great
expectation: that the next president will be elected directly by
the people, leaving the second millennium behind for good - and
all its dinosaurs with it.