Andrej Babiš is a chameleon. At one point you see him on a poster beaming out a jovial smile, or handing sweet pastries at an election rally; then you watch him giving interviews to international media full of resentful claims, while ‘representing‘ the views of our country.
So who is he and how did he get elected? Ironically, he is not originally Czech, but from Slovakia. First and foremost he is a businessman who claims to bring order to our political situation.
An average Czech person would say a lack of political experience does not matter because he is a rich already, and hence would not be dependent on the post to generate wealth for himself. Many also believe his business experience is going to prove useful.
But let us focus on his most recent activities, which caught the attention of Le Monde and The Guardian. Anyone can see that he is playing to the narrative of fear and hatred which chronically follows the refugee migrations. Unfortunately, a considerable number of Czechs share his views, at least according to polls. Most have forgotten how, even in recent history, Czechs have sought refuge from political persecution and economic stagnation.
To be honest, it is surprising that people from a country with a long history of seeing people flee political oppression can show such close-minded thinking. Mr Babiš claims, which I sincerely hope do not represent the real views of people, certainly do not help improve their understanding.
Not only are his claims manipulative, they also tend to be misleading. ‘Britain has always been an ally of the Czech Republic‘, he recently asserted; yeah well, our small country’s requests for help to our ‘ally‘ fell on deaf ears twice last century. First before World War II when the British and French conceded the Sudetenland under the Munich Agreement with the Nazis, and then again after the War when the Soviets were permitted to take over.
Funnily enough, Czech people do not actually have much to ‘fear‘. The Czech Republic is not a place where many migrants want to settle. It is merely a transition state and to this date, only tens of people actually have actually sought asylum.
From time to time, Mr Babiš does raise important issue, such as when he draws attention to the blood money that smugglers are making. But most of what he is saying is nonsensical, such as persuading potential migrants to stay in their countries of origin. The fact these people have decided to leave with little hope of returning demonstrates the severity of their predicament.
That is a predicament Czechs went through multiple times throughout our history, when many were forced to leave their homes and families behind, bribe a smuggler and hope that the bullets miss their bodies when they climbed over the barbed wire fence, and run for their life – all in the hope of a better life.
How can Mr Babiš turn a blind eye to our history and speak on the behalf of Czechs? And even if there was no historical context to rely on, do his arguments about dividing ‘our culture‘ and ‘their culture” stand up to scrutiny? I don’t think so.
I have to give him this though, he might be on to something when he says that the media fails to report on the important issues. The ‘if it bleeds it leads’ approach in reporting certainly does not invite an average person to dig deeply, and see what lies under the surface.
That is how you find yourself around a family table, listening to strong opinions (mostly based on news headlines) with people actually not knowing and/or not wanting to know any more. But before you let his complaints about the state of media impress you, I dare you to guess the name of the Slovakian businessman who owns the widest-circulating Czech newspapers?
I would love to think that the close-minded and history-oblivious views Mr. Babiš throws in do not represent the majority of people’s views, but I actually don’t know. I may myself be in a sound chamber, and do not tend to surround myself with close-minded people. So I tend to think that the situation over here is not so bad.
Then again, our feeble chauvinistic president Miloš Zeman was re-elected last year, supported by Mr. Babiš, who speaks to the international media and goes to Brussels with the kind of views I have set out. It is incredibly unfair of him to represent our country (blissfully unaware of the paradox that he is not even Czech) and offer these ideas, completely ignoring the history of Czechs and of Europe itself.