November 2003   česky

The Civic Democrats were in a nasty mood as they gathered in the Moravian resort town of Luhačovice for their annual party congress. They had lost the battle over public finance reform only to learn that the government later rewrote one of the laws after it was passed. A clerical error had changed the intended "is" to an "isn't" in the bill, thereby giving it an entirely different meaning and proving once and for all that members of parliament don't really know what it is (or isn't) they're voting on. The government took it upon itself to correct the bill without resubmitting it to a vote. The Civic Democrats responded by threatening to take the issue to the Supreme Court, but not before using their congress as a platform for hurling insults at the government. The cabinet was a gang of thieves, they said, led by a premier who was a "liar, swindler and paranoid autistic case." The paranoia swipe was a reference to a listening device supposedly found in the car of an MP who had run afoul of the premier. Talk about paranoia - when the police offered to sweep the cars of other MPs for bugs, they were rebuffed for fear they would plant more devices instead. Among those in the audience listening to the diatribes was Miroslav Kalousek, the newly elected chairman of the Christian Democrats and the only major party leader invited to the congress. His party is a member of the ruling coalition, meaning some of those alleged thieves are his own, but he limited his remarks to saying how the Christians look forward to the best possible relationship with the Civics. He was given a rapturous applause, and then all the misgivings set in. Although both parties are ideologically closer to each other than to the Social Democrats, Kalousek is a "genetically coded" arch-Christian Democrat who looks for only the best possible deal for himself and his people. But thank you for coming anyway. The Civic Democrats weren't content to limit their insults to their congress or politics for that matter. Vlastimil Tlustý, their parliamentary club leader, expressed his disappointment to learn that Education Minister Petra Buzková had undergone breast reduction surgery. She lost her two biggest endowments, he snorted. A few colleagues from other parties joined him in making similar crass observations and together they formed the basis of a television report about vulgarity among members of parliament. Culture Minister Pavel Dostál didn't like that idea at all and personally asked the station manager to quash the report. Too undignified for television, he said. Health Minister Marie Součková was also feeling indignant over finishing a miserable sixth place in her senate primary race. She was quick to take her loss out on a subordinate, the one who generated a lot of negative publicity with a plan to restrict the sale of condoms to certified vendors. No more buying them at newsstands and checkout counters. There has, in fact, been a law on the books ordering such a restriction, but practically nobody, least of all Součková, was aware of it. The surplus of indignities spread even to the Castle, which saw Parliament reject its request for 25 million crowns to repair various monuments. President Klaus had just stood before the MPs and chastised them for spending so much money. So they decided to show him it wasn't true. This coming when the Senate will have to add another wasteful expenditure to its budget. Independent Vladimír Železný, the ousted station manager of TV Nova, has joined forces with the Senate's three Communist members to form an official club. It will have no real power, but the Communists get another measure of legitimacy and Železný gets the use of a car, office and expense account. The Communists are now rejoicing that they are the second most popular party in the country according to opinion polls. Klaus blamed the ruling Social Democrats for their comeback without bothering to mention the open invitation he extended to Communist leaders for presidential roundtables. But just when the Communists think they have been rehabilitated, along comes a certain Ludvík Zifčák, leader of the decrepit Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, calling for nationalization and servility of the press again. The Communists fear nothing more today than people like him going around talking like real Communists. At least there's one group that has little to fear from one another these days. In an incredible display of team spirit, district court judge Martin Šalamoun ruled in favor of three judges, his colleagues from the same court, who were suing the state over back pay. Three weeks later his colleagues heard his case for back pay and returned the favor. The court, which is prescribed by law to represent the state in such matters, didn't see a conflict of interest because they were obviously open and shut cases.