The annual internet poll organized by the Sokolov Festival of Political Song provides an opportunity for Czechs to select politicians they deem to be most, corrupt, elitist and abusive of power. The two other categories are “Highflyer of the Year,” and “Pigsty of the Year”, which went to Radek John, chairman of the scandal-ridden newcomer to Czech parliamentary politics Public Affairs (VV), and the widely opposed coalition in Prague City Hall of the major center right and center left parties, Civic Democrats (ODS) and Social Democrats (ČSSD).
Czech president Václav Klaus took top “honors” to be named “Politico Fat Cat of the Year,” garnering 2,677 votes, almost 30 percent, though last year’s winner, Central Bohemia governor David Rath (ČSSD) came a close second with 2,477 votes. Rath has earned a reputation for abusive personal attacks on political opponents and is currently embroiled in a scandal over the mysterious disappearance of almost Kč 19 million from health trusts controlled by the region.
Third and fourth places were taken by Education Minister Josef Dobeš ( Public Affairs, VV) and the party’s de facto chairman, Vít Bárta, who was forced to resign as transport minister over alleged bribery, among other alleged ethical transgressions. Since taking the helm at the Education Ministry in July 2010, Dobeš’ credentials as a contender for the “Fat Cat” have been bolstered with revelations of excessive salaries for under-qualified assistants, and his employment of the outspoken far-right nationalist Ladislav Bátora, who has since stepped down.
Bárta, a Prague police academy graduate and founder of the security and detective agency ABL, is under investigation on suspicion of attempting to bribe fellow party members, and for indicating in internal VV documents that he intended to use political power to enrich his company, now led by his brother.
VV chairman Radek John collected 1,725 votes to collect the “Highflyer of the Year” award, or literally “jumper” of the year — for figures who have emerged from relative obscurity to grab public attention with unsavory scandals.
Since entering parliament for the first time last summer, his party, which waged its election campaign as a force to combat corruption and cronyism, has built an unenviable record of prominent scandals.
Second place in this category with 1,127 votes was Aleš Hušák, who led the national lottery firm Sazka to bankruptcy, as a consequence of which Czech sports associations, until recently the firm’s shareholders, are now facing major funding difficulties.
The “Pigsty of the Year” prize went to the deeply unpopular grand coalition in the Prague City Hall of the two largest Czech parties, the center-left Social Democrats (ČSSD) and ideological rivals the Civic Democrats (ODS). The runners up in this category were:
- The Drobil Affair involving embezzlement of funds from the State Environmental Fund
- Refusal by members of Klaus’ presidential administration to reveal their salaries and bonuses
- The Šumava national park bark beetle affair
The poll’s organizers say their intention is to stir people from passivity: “We curse in pubs about how dirty and rotten politics is … ‘Fat Catism’ is a form of disease — the inebriety of power. These people have forgotten why they’re in their positions,” the director of the Festival of Political Song, Miroslav Balatka, told the daily Mladá fronta dnes.
The poll results were announced on Národní třída in central Prague outside the Vagon and Rock Rock Café music clubs, where the Festival of Political Song was held on Thursday evening. In previous years the festival has been held in Sokolov, western Bohemia.
It is doubtful that Klaus or the other winners intend to collect their awards. In 2009, Petra Paroubková took the courage to collect the Fat Cat of the Year award on behalf of her husband, former prime minister and ČSSD chairman Jiří Paroubek, who has since former a new party (“Left 21”).
See related article: President Klaus among favorites for Czech ‘Politico Fat Cat of the Year’