Czech Republic update
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest and be the first to learn about news in the Czech Republic.
Since the piracy movement broke into European politics as a rebel force 15 years ago, its anti-establishment parties have been on the fringe of mainstream politics.
However, when Czech voters go to polling stations for parliamentary elections in early October, the party may win enough votes to become the first EU pirate to enter the national government.
Under the leadership of 41-year-old Ivan Bartos, the pirates and their coalition partners, the Mayor and the Independent Party (Stan), together with the right-wing party coalition, is one of the two groups that may unite to overthrow the ANO party. A billionaire prime minister Andre Barbis.
Like many pirates, Bartos, a former IT professional, entered politics because he was frustrated with the status quo and believed that the existing political parties in the Czech Republic were hindering the Central European country’s efforts to narrow the gap with its wealthy neighbors in Western Europe.
“I can’t stand corruption and unprofessional people actually determine our lives,” he said in an interview at the Prague party office.
“The Czech Republic has good people, good brains, and good workers, but they will never catch up with the dream of Western Europe.”
Founded in 2009, the Czech Pirate Group is one of many political parties of the same name that emerged from the dispute over Internet copyright rules in the mid-2000s. However, unlike some of its peers, the party quickly surpassed single-topic politics. After failed attempts in 2010 and 2013, it entered the Czech Parliament with 11% of the votes in 2017 and became the third largest party.
Earlier this year, the Pirates and Stan alliance surpassed Babis’s ANO, and polls showed them close to 30%, which briefly made their alliance the most popular political group.
Part of the reason for the surge is widespread anger against the government Responding to the epidemic, Which caused particularly serious losses in the first few months of this year. By March, on a per capita basis, the cumulative number of deaths in the Czech Republic was the highest in the world.
Bartos said: “The Covid crisis has revealed how chaotic the country’s operations are.” “It killed us 30,000 more people.”
However, as the impact of the pandemic diminishes, support for ANO has resumed. In recent weeks, Pirates and Stan have slipped to third place, behind Babis’s party and center-right coalition.
Babis also made pirates his number one goal, portraying them as progressive theorists who threatened the country’s more conservative voters. In June, he claimed that the pirates wanted Czechs who owned large houses to share with immigrants. This month, he claimed that they are promoting “ideologically correct ice cream.”
“Babis defines his campaign as shooting at pirates, and they don’t know how to respond,” said Milanick, a senior fellow at the German Council for Foreign Relations. “They cannot reshape the discourse and movement to solve the problems in their plan. They have been on the defensive.”
Bartos was still not deterred. He said that his party is more affected by false information than any other party. He said that the real risk facing the Czech Republic is Babis-he was hated by some mainstream parties because he denied allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest related to his business empire-and later cooperated with the far right and the Communist Party. The election continues to govern.
Bartos warned that this could drag the Czech Republic away from the EU mainstream and make it a laggard in the EU. “I don’t want us to be a museum of post-communist countries in Eastern Europe. I want to belong to the ever-developing and cooperating Western Europe,” he said. “You can’t deal with the challenges of the future alone.”
He believes that, as in most parts of Central Europe, one of the challenges is to transform the Czech economy from a model that provides cheap labor to Western European multinational companies to a model where companies are located in the upper reaches of the value chain. “We want to transform the Czech Republic from a country that assembles things into a brain,” he said.
But he also said that the Czech Republic, which still relies on coal for almost a third of its energy, must be more environmentally friendly. He said the country needs to use the funds provided by the EU to member states-as part of its Green Agreement climate plan-to help the EU achieve carbon neutrality in the next three years.
“The funding of the Green Agreement aims to create jobs that will appear in 2050. Unless you are responsible for the ecology, there is not much room for development,” he said. “If this is a trend, then it is not ideology to follow it-it is wise.”