Checkers defeat a populist, provide a road map for topping strongmen

ROSDROZOVIS, Czech Republic – Marie Malenova, a Czech pensioner in a clean, prosperous village in southern Moravia, has not voted since 1989, the year her country held its first free election in more than four decades of communist rule.

Last Friday, however, he decided to vote again, an unusual occurrence that his unbelieving family recorded a change of heart, taking pictures of him slipping his ballot in a large white box in the village hall.

He said he did not like those he voted for, an alliance of previously divided center-right parties, describing them as “a small evil among many of our thieves.” But they had at least one simple and clear message: We can defeat the people of the Czech Republic, the billionaire Prime Minister Andrzej Babis.

“I wanted a change,” said Mrs. Malenova, “and I wanted something that could defeat Babis.”

Over the past decade, MPs like Mr. Babis, often seen as politically invincible, have come to power across Central and Eastern Europe as part of a global trend of powerful leaders who hate democratic norms. But on Saturday, the seemingly invincible Mr. The Babis were defeated because the opposition parties came together to put aside ideological differences and oust a leader whose fears they had ruined the country’s democracy.

Their success can have far-reaching implications for the region and beyond. In Hungary and Poland, where nationalist leaders have undermined democratic institutions and sought to weaken the European Union, opposition leaders are rallying, trying to form an ified coalition front and ousting populist leaders in the upcoming elections.

“The popularity is palpable,” said Otto Ible, head of the political science department at Masaric University in Brno, the capital of southern Moravia. “The first step in beating a leader is to suppress personal arrogance and compromise in the interest of change.”

The biggest showdown could come in Hungary, where Prime Minister Victor Urban has promoted himself as Europe’s standard-bearer for “liberal democracy”, while his Fides party has consistently snatched democratic checks, suppressing independent media and the judiciary. Mr Orban highlights right-wing political positions িতা hostility to immigration, the European Union and the LGBTQ rights (if the left also proves adept at adopting welfare policies) হয়েছেwhich has been emulated by its allies in Poland, the ruling law and the Justice Party.

In recent years, the champions of liberal democracy have become confused in their attempts to return to power against nationalist leaders who fear and present themselves as saviors. Faced with a fragrant and well-funded political machine like Ano, the Fides Party of Urban, or Mr. Babis’s Party, the opposition forces have so far been infamously divided.

This weekend, six Hungarian parties will complete a week-long opposition preliminary race to reduce the list of potential rivals in each constituency to oppose Mr. Weeban Urban’s party. The coalition ranges from nationalist conservatives to leftist groups, who disagree on most issues but Mr. Sharing the intense desire to send Orban.

In Poland, Donald Tusk, the former prime minister and former president of the European Council, tried to rally the main opposition parties and those who do not often vote, and sought support from a majority of other opposition groups.

Opposition groups called for a boycott of the by-elections in Russia, but said that last month’s parliamentary elections were not free and fair. Allies of jailed opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny were trying to persuade voters to rally behind a single opposition candidate in each seat, whether they liked the candidate or not, trying to win a single seat and completely shutting down Putin in power in the name of a fifth break from President Vladimir.

It didn’t work – partly because most of the original opposition candidates were excluded from the ballot, but partly because Mr Putin’s government pressured companies to remove a “smart voting” app that the opposition was using to coordinate its campaigns.

Mr. Like Putin, European MPs claim that they are defending traditional Christian values ​​against decadent liberals, but they have to make a real choice against Mr Putin. Until recently, they helped because opposition parties split the vote, which meant there was a chance of defeating the ruling party, which had a lot going on within that party.

Those ruling parties have gained significant control over the media in their country. In the Czech Republic, Mr. Babis owns a media holding company, including newspapers, internet portals and other news outlets. In Hungary, Mr. Urban has placed state television and many private media under the control of loyal allies or businesses.

Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a research group based in Budapest, described Hungary as Europe’s “most captive state with its most centralized media environment.” However he acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Hungary’s opposition.

“They have a good message: If you fight against the people’s representatives, things could be different,” he said. Kreko said.

In the Czech election, that was basically the theme. Mr. Although Babis is seen as less extreme than Mr Urban, he has isolated many people in the Czech Republic. They see him as a bully whose wealth and corporate relationships have given him a lot of power.

Mary Zilkova, a successful anti-BABIS candidate in South Moravia from one of the two parties that formed an alliance to oppose the prime minister, said Mr. Bubbis and his party coming together to face the machine “was the only way for us to survive – there was no alternative.”

His own party, the Christian Democrats, differs from the more centralized parties in his coalition on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, so, he said, “we agreed that we would not talk about these issues during the campaign.”

Faced with a united group of center-right opponents, Mr. Babis and his Ano party took a stand on the right, against immigration and the European Union. He is Mr. Invite Orban to campaign with him.

When he first entered politics about a decade ago, Mr. Babis was plagued by questions about his finances and his association with Agrofort. One week before the election, documents were published as part of the Pandora Papers project of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, showing how he raised more than ২০ 20 million in 2009 through an offshore shell company to buy property in France.

Experts disagree on whether the announcement has a significant impact on the race, but the revelations clearly upset Mr Babis.

In an interview in Brno, Ms. Zilkova said, “She was desperate to find a problem that would scare people and convince them that only she could save them.” “Luckily, it didn’t work.”

Nationally, the opposition coalition won 108 of the 200 seats in parliament, a clear majority.

In Rosdrozovis, where Mrs. Malenova cast her first vote since 1989, her coalition has benefited from a high turnout and won 37.3 percent of the vote, a big leap on what her constituent parties got when they ran separately four years ago.

Pete Xerosek, who runs a liquor business and owns a pub in Rozdrozovice, said his customers don’t usually talk much about politics, but Mr. Faced with a choice between Babis and his enemies, “They sometimes get too excited in their discussions. ”

Mr Jer Xerusek was thrilled with the final results late Saturday. “People finally opened their eyes,” he said. “Enough of them.”

Peter Stransky, a former police officer who now runs the municipality, was disappointed. “I don’t like chaos and I don’t like things to be clear in society,” he said.

The mayor of the village, Daniel Strasky, said he had been told by Mr. Babis wanted to see him go, but he did not vote because he opposed the alliance within his own party, which represents the mayor and other local dignitaries, and the pirates, a popular group among the naughty young voters.

But, he added, the loveless electoral marriage was probably successful because it was Mr. Helped defeat Babis, whose transfer to pensioners, young rail travelers and other budget-destroying measures hurt the mayor’s faith in financial discipline.

Mr Strasky was also upset by the prime minister’s anti-immigration tire, especially since a family in Vietnam runs the only food shop in the village.

“I and everyone else in the village are very happy they are here,” the mayor said. “No one else will ever run that store.”

Benjamin Novak Report contributions from Budapest, and Petra Korler from Rozdrozovis.

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