October 2002   česky

An international incident occurred this month when a Polish posse seized a fugitive from a hotel in Ceský Tešín and hustled him across the border without any extradition proceedings. They were led by Krzysztof Rutkowski, a private detective turned member of the Polish parliament. Their quarry was a young man accused of committing a brutal murder in, of all places, Auschwitz. The Czech police later argued that Rutkowski, who represents the Self-defense Party, had duped them into going along with the operation by using his diplomatic credentials. They plan to file charges against him, though he has little to fear from a Czech posse coming after him any time soon. The police would suffer more embarrassment when their second highest-ranking cop, Miroslav Antl, was forced to resign after causing an accident and failing the subsequent breathalyzer test. Antl, a former prosecutor famous for his book "I Don't Like Crooks", was on his way from a meeting with the top cop himself, but insists the alcohol came from the hard liquor he was swilling from a bottle at eight o'clock that morning. The police did, however, get a break in another alcohol-related matter. The former police chief of Hradec Kralové had been sentenced to 400 hours of community service for his attempts to obstruct the drunk driving cases brought against a state's attorney and some other official honcho. On appeal, the court decided that the sentence was too undignified for a former high-ranking cop and slapped him with only a paltry fine. He was just helping his friends, that's all. Another cozy relationship between the police and local authorities came to light in Brno, where government dwellings meant for minority Roma families were given to local police officers instead. The chief of police there went on record saying he doesn't see any reason why the Roma should get any special treatment. In Usti nad Labem, the city that wanted to wall off part of its Roma population a few years ago, a coalition calling itself the Democratic Block has proposed building special units for "non-conformist" residents (i.e. Roma) where the police can keep a good eye on them. On the other hand, the vice-mayor of the city thought he would make up for his sneering that the Roma were "locusts" by posing with a Gypsy girl on a campaign poster. But his stud-like pose suggests he's still the same old hayseed. And finally on a national level, Labor Minister Zdenek Škromach is planning to make life more difficult for those Roma who return home after failing to obtain asylum elsewhere in Europe. He thinks he can discourage them from continuing to embarrass the Czech Republic abroad by cutting their welfare benefits. Maybe it once occurred to him that the offer of a decent job might prove more effective, but welfare reform remains a hot topic in the run-up to elections next month. In the first round of voting for Senate seats, the conservative Civic Democrats made something of a comeback after their humiliating loss over the summer. But there was only one candidate who reached the magical 50% mark, thereby avoiding a runoff, and that was the ever-slippery Vladimír Zelezný, the station manager of TV Nova. He campaigned as an independent, but his ties to the Civic Democrats are well-known and they didn't even bother to field a candidate against him. In return for the favor, his station, and only his station, aired charges of corruption against former Prague mayor Jan Kasl, who had earned the everlasting enmity of the Civic Democrats after ditching them right before the last election. Why Zelezný wants to be a senator in the first place, when he has no plans to leave TV, was also clear from the start. As a senator, he will be entitled to immunity from all the criminal charges still pending against him. As for how he managed to win so easily in heavily-Communist Znojmo, he simply took a leaf from Hillary Clinton's playbook and won on the strength of his celebrity. Now all that's needed is for his good friend Václav Klaus to win the presidency and the store is theirs. Klaus has decided to make the run now that his lieutenants are lining up behind former Ostrava mayor Evžen Tošenovský and his bid to assume the leadership of the Civic Democrats. Since Klaus hasn't got enough support in parliament, where the president is elected, he has reversed his earlier contempt for direct elections and is now openly supporting them. Zelezný proved with his victory that, rogue or no rogue, celebrity goes a long way in a field of nobodies. But this tactic requires that a constitutional amendment be passed, and in a manner of months no less. Direct elections could also enable Havel to run for yet another term as president, although his shenanigans during the flooding crisis, in addition to his poor health, have caused his popularity among the Czech people to plummet to its lowest level ever. With this most likely to be his last year in office, he chose the holiday marking the country's statehood to bestow national honors on several of is good friends, especially those who continue to sing praises of him. It would appear that Zelezný isn't the only one with the Clinton playbook in hand.