The recent outings by Mirek Topolánek and Milan Urban smell so fishy that one's nose twitches. Respectively the ODS and ČSSD higher-ups have cruised azure waters on yachts, along with ČEZ head Martin Roman (hanging with Topolánek) and one of the company's top lobbyists, Vladimír Johanes (spending quality time with Urban). The two yachts met at sea at one point – although the politicians claim they didn't. It seems that a plan for a grand coalition has begun to take shape on these voyages.
Journalists, Transparency International and other watchdogs should set up a coast guard. Important talks happen on the Mediterranean now, not in landlocked meeting rooms.
Why is it that influential politicians spend time with representatives of powerful companies? Might one gather that the more influential the man, the better the travel companion? Can't they take politicians from smaller parties on holiday? At the recent ČSSD congress, Urban called for the completion of the ČEZ-operated Temelín project. The same man devises his party's energy plan and hopes to again head the Industry and Trade Ministry. One needn't discuss the „strategic“ significance of Topolánek. He could again become prime minister. Recently, politicians helped ČEZ with tens of billions of crowns. Times have changed: In 2001 Miroslav Macek (ODS) helped Erste Bank with the privatisation of Česká spořitelna. When found out, he left politics. These days, politicians make sure they have a majority in the lower house, and thus ensure that everything appears legit.
People have been talking about the influence of ČEZ for a long time, and, off the record, politicians admit that this collaboration is fruitful. There is also talk about kickbacks for political parties, but so far nothing has been proven. And we can hardly expect the impotent police force to do something about this anytime soon.
But, even without the effort of the police, it's clearly important to start paying attention. According to public opinion polls, it is becoming increasingly probable that a grand coalition made up of the ČSSD and the ODS could emerge after the election. The future of the smaller parties is uncertain. And you cannot help but notice that the foundations for such a coalition are already being laid. Both parties are preparing us for the mindset that in the next few years the government won't be able to increase its savings because of the economic crisis. This is a good environment for a coalition because, thanks to „external“ factors, neither party will be able to fulfil its programme promises. So it won't matter if the party running this country is on the right or the left. Both parties are visibly helping ČEZ at the expense of public interest. Both parties are working on establishing a law that would enable the state to expropriate land belonging people who are unwilling to use their property as the government sees fit – for instance, as a section of a new motorway. Both parties are suddenly silent about the mafia practices of the justice system, and they have divided key media advisory-board posts up among themselves. The list of coalition clues could go on.
No need to save receipts
Just to be clear: A grand coalition does not necessarily have to be a bad thing if it turns out to be the only acceptable solution (for instance if only the ODS, ČSSD and Communists make it into Parliament) and if it is governed by clearly defined rules. The problem would be if the big parties were to continue in the tradition that started with the opposition agreement signed in 1998, a time when politicians followed their own interests and the those of powerful companies. The two parties are even able to agree on a very flexible definition of what is morally acceptable and what isn't. Such as when it comes to spending free time on the yachts of lobbyists.
Urban promised that he would show us receipts proving that he paid for the holiday from his own pocket. He must think that this country is inhabited by people with an incredibly low IQ. Because the problem here is that a former and, possibly also future cabinet minister, is going on vacation with a person who has significant influence in a field of business impacted by ministry decisions. Is this so difficult to understand? At least Urban admits that his holiday was not quite appropriate. Topolánek, on the other hand, said that anyone who sees something suspicious about his contacts „is an idiot“.
Unexpectedly, this gives room to smaller parties, which could build pretty successful campaigns based on the threat of a potential grand coalition.