Will he win the October elections while arrested?
Andrej Babiš, a Slovak billionaire, a former communist cadre, an ex-agent of the communist secret police, and the Czech finance minister up to Spring, was fired by the social democratic prime minister Sobotka a few months ago, in a series of events that looked like a farce mainly because Sobotka repeatedly changed his opinions how to deal with the problem named Babiš. The reasons were numerous.
At least at the level of economic morality that Babiš – and Sobotka – loudly demand from everyone else, there was no doubt that Babiš has done too many immoral things.
He has done lots of strange things to fool his former business partners, evade taxation of CZK 1 bonds by tricks with the rounding to the nearest integer etc. but the most famous wrongdoing is the subsidies for his Stork's Nest, a luxurious farm and rural tourist resort I saw a year ago. He temporarily moved the company owning the project to his relatives, they secured $2 million of EU subsidies that were meant to help small and medium businesses, and then Babiš – who owns a $3 billion company – restored the ownership of his Stork's Nest company.
At the moral level, it's obviously a theft or fraud. At the legal level, the laws may have stupid loopholes that actually make such things legal. But I think it's unlikely. This particular $2 million scam is investigated by some EU investigators. Finally, the Czech police began to do the same. An hour ago, the police asked the Parliament to vote and allow the prosecution of Andrej Babiš and his #2 both in the Agrofert company and the ANO political movement (these hierarchies are largely copied in both entities, in order to make the clash of interest more striking), Mr Jaroslav Faltýnek.
Based on the previous pledges, not only the Parliament should vote "extradite": ANO's deputies should actually vote "extradite", too. They have always pledged that this is the only correct way to act in such situations.
Just months ago, Babiš's movement had a rule in its statutes that whoever starts to be prosecuted by police has to leave politics – because they're such great warriors against the economic crimes, aren't they? Cleverly enough, they removed that rule shortly before Babiš, their very Führer himself, became a subject of a prosecution by the Czech police so he doesn't need to resign.
Nevertheless, many Czech parties instantly urged both Babiš and Faltýnek to resign from the Parliament.
Now, I believe that Czechs – the most atheist nation in Europe by far – are generally reasonable in lots of things. Even more so than some other post-communist nations in central Europe, we understand the problems of co-existence of very different cultures and the counterproductiveness of the bending of the asylum and immigration laws by the European Union authorities.
On top of that, I actually believe that Czechia has the greatest freedom of speech in the world – much safer than countries in the West as well as those in the East. While Poland and Hungary are doing many great things, I am also somewhat anxious about the increased control held by their key political parties – although I don't really agree that something "unacceptable" has already taken place in these countries. Those changes are clearly a consequence of the fact that some parties could get towards or above the 40% territory and such strength allows parties to do unusual things in systems that normally require coalitions of many smaller parties. Czechia has been "lucky" so far – the strongest party was generally below 30% for quite some time (the political spectrum has been sufficiently fragmented in recent decades) so coalitions were always needed and we didn't have the opportunity to become or look "totalitarian" in this sense – the conflicts between the coalition parties have been a part of our politics pretty much on every day since the Velvet Revolution. In some sense, it's an advantage relatively to Poland and Hungary. And all these central European countries are obviously much more free than the Western Europe or the U.S. when it comes to the political correct speech codes.
But some things about the Czechs' political attitudes are just shockingly wrong. In particular, Andrej Babiš is still expected to win the October elections with some 30% of votes – it could be a bit less or a bit more, nobody knows for sure now. His political movement of the Führer type will almost certainly be the strongest player in Czech politics (so far it's #2 according to the composition of the Parliament but for many years, his ANO was at the top in the surveys). It's likely but not quite certain that he would still need coalition partners and it's unknown which ones he actually prefers. An ANO-communist coalition looks rather terrifying to me.
But I simply can't have any sympathy or empathy for the processes inside the brains of these 30% or so voters of Andrej Babiš. He's done some of the ethically worst things that people were doing before 1989. His path to wealth both in Slovakia as well as Czechia where he escaped at some point is suspicious and full of bizarre tricks hot to beat his former business partners. He's been getting billions of crowns in subsidies for rape – used for biofuels – and other things. And so on.
More seriously, he wants to dismantle the Parliamentary system as we know it. He wants to abolish the Senate. He wants to reduce the number of lawmakers in the House. He has said that he basically wants to ban the lawmakers from talking too much in the Parliament. He wants to abolish the municipal "Parliaments" and make sure that the mayors take all the power. Discussions and negotiations are just "babbling" for him, not work. And he only wants the accountable people to "work" – i.e. mindlessly act without discussions. He is convinced that the government – most likely himself – must have the right to monitor every financial transaction that occurs in the country. He is enthusiastic about imposing $20,000 fines for small businesses every time they make a small financial or bureaucratic sin. He bought top newspapers, apparently convinced that they would provide him with the monopoly over the information in Czechia. It hasn't worked so far for him – but some of these failures are due to his having 22% only in the latest elections so far – they may change when he's given 30% or more. I think that Babiš is intrinsically far more authoritarian than Orbán, let alone Kaczynski.
Some of Babiš's opinions are still sane – he is critical of mass migration, he is sometimes against the adoption of the Euro etc. – but all these things are just a result of the consensus in the public. When it comes to questions that don't directly affect his power, he simply copies the opinions from the majorities of Czech voters. He only has sensible opinions about things in which an overwhelming majority of the Czechs has the same opinion. What is the added value? There is none.
Babiš constantly whines that he has destroyed his life by entering politics, he doesn't really want to be there, and so on – but is apparently unable to figure out that he may leave politics if he doesn't like it. He constantly repeats that everyone else is a thief, he spreads all unsubstantiated and nasty accusations you can hear in the cheapest pubs of Czechia, and so on, and lots of primitive enough people love it because they don't give a damn about substantiation, evidence, or the truth value of their accusations, after all. They just sound good and the more stuff someone says against democracy or the neighbors who are wealthier than they are, the better. All this whining and accusations is sort of analogous to the feminists' behavior in the U.S. except that the preferred class over here is still some kind of a proletariat, although this proletariat is vastly richer than it used to be. But Babiš simply still finds 30% of the Czech citizens who are rather enthusiastic about him. It's perverse.
If he's arrested, I am pretty sure that almost all these 30% of voters will remain faithful to him and he may even increase the support. Czechs literally love another criminal, Mr Jiří Kajínek. Two decades ago, he almost certainly killed Mr Štefan Janda, a 26-year-old businessman, near the Bory prison here in Pilsen. Janda wasn't a saint by himself etc. but there exist numerous witnesses that confirm that Kajínek was the shooter – a hired gun. He received a life in prison sentence. Even if he weren't the killer, he had done lots of criminal things in his life that are known. And he has repeatedly escaped from prisons. Try to estimate the probability that the killer was someone else if someone so perfectly suited for that job, with these amazing extra abilities, was apparently seen by several independent witnesses.
Well, it doesn't matter. Kajínek became a sex symbol for a huge number of Czech women. The tales about his innocence have become so powerful that the Czech president Zeman – who previously promised not to use pardons at all – decided to pardon Kajínek. If you need to increase your approval rate that dropped in recent months, why don't you just pardon the most famous killer in the country? Well, if Zeman decided to avoid pardons, it's bizarre to pick the only exception who may very well be the most potent killer in the country. You know, I've heard about very specific witnesses here in Pilsen. I can still imagine that something was different, that police did it for some mysterious reasons, that the witnesses are lying for some reasons I can't see. It's possible. But why would a sane impartial person start to work on these rather unlikely assumptions?
There simply exist some types of villains – who are really bad – which become much more popular in Czechia than any hero ever could. It's sick but it's true. Babiš – who got married on his Stork's Nest some weeks ago (the wife has used his surname for a decade, anyway, and they have kids together) – became another villain that Czechs find irresistible and I am afraid that it will continue even if he were placed in a prison. He will obviously scream he is innocent or something like that and most of his stupid sheep will buy it. This guy has grown to a big enough fish so that he and his supporters basically want to dismantle the whole post-Velvet-Revolution system and his rhetoric often confirms that.
I hope that we won't see some new Bastille-style beginning of a new communist revolution when this jerk is violently liberated from a prison.
Babiš already told Reuters that the prosecution was the "last desperate attempt of the corrupt system to remove him from power". I guess it implies that once he gets to power, he wants to be unremovable. If this is his plan, I sincerely hope that some of the owners of 800,000 legally held weapons in Czechia will beg to differ.
A joke of the day: The wealthiest Czech, Mr Petr Kellner ($10 billion), bragged in China that now he is so rich that he could buy Czechia including the people. A man in a cluster of people surrounding Kellner, Mr Babiš, said: "But I am not selling, Peter."
Czech, Czechoslovak presidents and prisons
While you must have understood that I am really not a Babiš's fan, it seems to me that the Western readers will think that the association of a top politician and prisons is something absolutely insane that just can't happen in an otherwise civilized country.
Well, it's not really the case in our country. Lots of our presidents have spent years in prisons and it doesn't mean anything that would be too wrong or that would place us in Central Asia – these arrests of the presidents are mostly testimonies of our rather vibrant 20th century history.
The founder of Czechoslovakia, Prof Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, was never successfully arrested but that's only because he traveled a lot while creating Czechoslovakia. In 1915, an Austrian-Hungarian arrest warrant against him was issued so he stayed abroad (Geneva etc., he went to the U.S. in 1918) but his American wife was in Czechia so she was imprisoned. So it's questionable whether you could count Masaryk as a prisoner.
His successor and big ally, Dr Edvard Beneš, who was forced to oversee both the Munich treaty and the communist coup, has never been arrested. In Beneš's case, the Austrian-Hungarian authorities probably didn't even issue an arrest warrant because it was hopeless but Beneš's wife was arrested because of the secessionist activities of her husband.
Now, the State President of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, lawyer and translator Dr Emil Hácha (he translated Three Men in a Boat to Czech, among other things) whose poor health and modest physique symbolized the Czech submission to the Germans, was arrested for collaboration with the Nazis in May 1945. He died the following month in the prison's hospital.
Our first working-class president Gottwald hasn't lived in a prison but his successor, Mr Antonín Zápotocký, was arrested for a strike around 1920, and for an attempted emigration to the Soviet Union through Poland around 1940. He spent the years up to 1945 in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
His successor as a Czechoslovak president, Mr Antonín Novotný, was arrested between 1941 and 1945 – in the Malthausen-Gusen concentration camp – for his communist activities.
His successor General Ludvík Svoboda – the president during the Prague Spring and then up to 1975 – was fighting hard during the Second World War so he didn't have any time for prisons but about 20 of his relatives were in prison during the Second World War.
His successor, the last communist president Gustáv Husák whom I remember rather well and whose incentives for newborns have encouraged me to be born in the first place, was arrested by his communist comrades in 1951 because despite his being a commie, he was also charged as a Slovak "bourgeoisie nationalist". He got life in prison in 1954 – but that was only good luck because both Stalin and Gottwald died shortly before the verdict, in 1953, otherwise he would have gotten the death penalty. In 1960, he was freed by Novotný's amnesty as soon as the intense de-Stalinization of the 1960s was getting started.
Well, his successor was the first modern democratic president Václav Havel. As you may guess, the sequence of the jailed president doesn't really stop here. In total, Havel has spent 5 years in Czechoslovak prisons for his writing politically incorrect things – and for his capitalist ancestors. He became a president just some two months after his latest term in the prison.
After a long time, Václav Klaus was the president who had had nothing to do with prisons, although most of the Czech people may want to send him into one. One of his latest decisions as a president was a big amnesty – many people hate it even though it was a rather standard expression of the leader's mercy and many other presidents and kings before him have issued comparable amnesties. The current president Miloš Zeman hasn't been jailed, either, but many of his comments about prisoners and his pardon for Kajínek are related to prisons.
If you make the statistics, you will see that "a Czechoslovak or Czech president has been arrested at some point" is a 50-50 proposition. A clear majority of the Czechoslovak or Czech presidents were either arrested or had their immediate relatives arrested. Most of the arrests were politically driven – and they may be understood as events that help someone's political star to rise if he manages to survive. The problem with Babiš is that his prosecution isn't political in any way. He is basically as apolitical a criminal as you can get.
After all these leaders who have fought to change the world – break the monarchy and establish Czechoslovakia, undermine Nazism, rebuild Czechoslovakia, try to avoid the communist coup, try to accelerate the communist coup, soften the communism and make it more independent of the Soviet and international forces, initiate the Prague Spring, normalize Czechoslovakia as a territory occupied by Soviet and other fraternal troops, establish Charter 77 and help to abolish communism, liberalize and privatize and democratize Czechoslovakia, peacefully divide Czechoslovakia etc. – we are waiting for a top leader who has made his fortune mainly by trading šit, literally. After he entered politics in 2011, he began to trade šit figuratively (mostly fabricated dirt against all other politicians). He is expected to be prosecuted for a theft of the money equal to 5 lives of Czech average salaries, but it's still less than 0.1% of his wealth. Some people view Babiš as a semi-God. Sorry jako, he is a piece of cheap filth from my point of view.