>Kompromat- Czech style and a guess at the election results…

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In about 30 minutes polls will close and exit polls appear in the Czech elections. Czech politics is usually rather boring, but this has been campaign, descending into an aggressive, angry and hyperbolic mutual accusations of corruption and criminality by the two main parties the centre-right Civic Democrats and the incumbent Social Democrats,.

The theme was first alluded to in typical maladroit style by ODS leader Topolánek in his first TV debate with Prime Minister PAroubek, but really only got going when extracts were of police surveillance recordings of conversations between Miroslav Topolánek and an aide were leaked to the Czech media. The recordings had been made in as part of investigations into allegations that ODS leaders had attempted to bribe a deputy from the disintegrating Freedom Union, Zdeněk Kořistka, in defecting. The investigation was later dropped due to lack of evidence and the leaked recordings contained little new information, merely confirming that an approach for political support had been made to Kořistka. (LN 26 May)

Further accusations were then dramatically aired in testimony given to a parliamentary committee by the director of the police’s Organized Crime Detection Unit, Jan Kubice. who claimed that organized crime had penetrated Czech public administration and accused the Ministry of the Interior’s Inspectorate of Police of interfering in investigations at the behest of Prime Minister Paroubek and Interior Minister Bublan (LN 29 May 2006, P26 and 29 May 2006). The accusations centred mainly on three cases where tendering processing for licenses or privatization projects were allegedly rigged in exchange for kickbacks, the most notable of which was the ‘Bio-Alcohol Affair’ and the probable contract killing of ‘businessman’ František Mrazák in connection with these (although the police are investigating three other lines of enquiry connected with ‘ordinary’ organized crime).

The accusations provoked a furious reaction from who issued a statement claiming that ODS was using sympathetic elements in the police to blacken political opponents and accusing Topolánek’s and the Civic Democrats ‘political gangsterism’ and ‘putschist inclinations’. Topolánek responded with a similarly over-the-top statement which claimed that the Social Democrat-led government had become enmeshed with organized crime and that the Czech Republic, he claimed, was facing the gravest threat to its democracy and security since November 1989 (LN 31 May 2006). Media and politicians have been polarized along partisan lines in their reactions and reporting to the accusations and it has been even more difficult than usual to make any sense of the byzantine, shady underbelly of Czech politics and business. Overall – although we are far from Hungarian levels of polarization – it is a reminder of the weakness and politicization of the Czech state and media. Kompromat Czech-style.

As I have been following the campaign with more than usual anorak-ish interest, however, I’m going to venture a prediction (read: guess) of the result….

Civic Democrats 29% 68 seats
Social Democrats 27% 64 seats
Communists 16% 38 seats
Christian Democrats 7% 16 seats
Greens 6% 14 seats

Turnout 52%

Coalition outcome Civic Democrats-Christian Democrat-Green coalition with Greens parliamentary group rapidly splitting to produce the usual minority government we know and love. Increased Communist influence.

This will, I dare, now guarantee a completely different result….

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