Archive | January, 2010

>Conservatively speaking


The paper on Czech conservatism in Liblice has now appeared in a conference paper archive on the website of the Henrich Boell Foundation, who jointly sponsored the event with the Institute for Contemporary History in Prague. There are also some much better and more interesting papers alongside.

What I wonder would the English Greens call their foundation – if, of course, they had the cash and the votes to create one, of course?

Update: The broken hyperlink the papers originally posted has now been fixed.

>Czech Republic: Civic Democrats’ leading green quits


Bad news for anyone holding our any hope for the greening’ of the Czech Civic Democrats (ODS) alone the lines what the British Tories under David Cameron have (supposedly) embraced: ODS’s one renown and respected ecological expert Senator Bedřich Moldan is quitting the party after 20 years membership and is tipped to stand for the new TOP09 party. He is interested in standing for a new Senate seat, but won’t defend his existing one where the partner of ODS leader Miroslav Topolánek is likely to be parachuted in (a nepotisitic looking move that is likely to damage the party – and will probably be stoked by undercurrents of sexism which always make sure that prominant Czech women politicians always have a particularly bad time).
Moldan’s statement as reported in the Czech press does not really explain his decision to quit the party, but it seems more than possibly that political differences may have something to with it, although on the other hand he stuck loyally by the party under Václav Klaus when it was at its most militantly anti-ecologist. Indeed, he was a member from its foundation in 1991. These days the party is more about climate-change-dunno than climate change denial, although VK has naturally left his ideological fingerprints everywhere despite stepping down as leader the best part of a decade ago.

>Unpublishable but readable

>There are, it seems, few blogging political scientists in the UK. Perhaps we all too overloaded reserved, or chastened by the brouhaha surrounding the excessively candid blogged comments of Dr Erik Ringmar at LSE (now formally of LSE) a few years back. For all these reasons, I was pleased to stumble across the blog written by Jonathan Hopkin in LSE Department of Government who writes on politics, political economy, trivia and football under the moniker Unpublishable Thoughts.

There’s perhaps too much on political economy, British politics and Hull City for my personal tastess, but also some must-read stuff on parties and party organization, electoral politics, clientelism and corruption.

Many years ago Jonathan was internal examiner for my PhD at the University of Birmingham

No doubt that put him off party studies…

>2010: For whom the bell TOLs?


The BBC’s annual Correspondents Look Foward programme has, characteristically, nothing to say about Central and Eastern Europe. It is now a backwater of global politics, seemingly. Even Russia barely gets a mention and the programme peters out with a self-indulgent discussion of the World Cup.

Transitions Online (TOL), does however, does carry a look ahead feature on CEE in 2010 but, unfortunately, it is scarely better than the BBC’s non-discussion of the region. A translation of a commentary in the Czech economic daily Hospodářské noviny, it manages to serve up every cliche in the book about Central and Eastern Europe being rocked by a wave of nationalism and populism driven by economic crisis, which will hit harder in the region in the coming year.

Interestingly, the concrete developments that are flagged offer, as so often, a mixed picture: the Czech communists indeed may gain greater leverage after the Czech election, but they are hardly putting on the votes and this will depend on the electoral arithmetic and the decisions of the Social Democrats if they win (hardly evidence of a ‘wave of extremism’) . A Grand Coalition is frankly just as likely.

Hungary’s election is likely to produce a sweeping win for the right putting paid for would-be reformist, centre left government led by a beleagued centre-left PM called Gordon B. – which sounds disconcertingly familiar, although in this case the wretched incumbernt is Gordon Bajnai and the third party is likely to be the far-right Jobbik. At last some genuine extremists on the up to give all that fire and brimstone some reality… However, although on 12% in the latest poll Jobbik seems unlikely to match the 14% it took in the Euro-elections. A historically good score of 10%, I should think, but the far-right has had electoral presence of around 5% previously and sat in parliament, so we are not in totally new territory here.

Robert Fico, perhaps the one sure thing in Central and East European politics these days, also seems set to romp home in the Slovak elections – and it seems that this bad boy of the European Socialist Group will indeed play the nationalist card and here too there is a far-right competitor of sorts in the Slovak National Party (SNS).

The game plan for anyone inclined to a favourable view of RF is that it’s all in the good cause of dumping the Slovak Nationalists as a coalition partner and possibly out of parliament by incorporating some of their electorate into the political elephant that is SMER. Along with the seemingly unstoppable electoral juggernaut of Fidesz, Poland’s Civic Platform, Bulgaria’s GERB – a kind of centre-right parallel to Fico’s interesting mix of mainstream respectability and edgy populism – SMER is now one of biggests and the highest polling party in the region, althoughs its 40%-ish ratings , which have actually been dipping a bit recently, pale before the 2/3 of the vote Viktor Orbán and his merry men (and women) seem set to pull in.

In any case, the real story seems to be one of big parties sweeping up votes by whatever means works, although yes, there is populism and nationalism about, this year as every year in the same way that there is grass in your garden. It is sometimes under control, n, occasionally grows and gets a big unruly and out of control, changes colour across the seasons and then gets cut again. It’s not very lovely, and everything out there doesn’t always look that rosy, but its part of the landscape and, of course, you don’t have the option of paving it over and replacing the populace with a handpicked citizenry composed of liberal-minded financial journalists and economics PhDs

Happy New Year.