PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC—The Czech Republic is one of the most successful members of the former Soviet Empire. Yet Czechs with whom I recently spoke fear liberty is in retreat. The former Communist Party might reenter government after elections later this month.
Czechoslovakia was “liberated” by the Red Army at the end of World War II. After the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, the so-called Velvet Revolution ousted the Czech Communist Party. Czechoslovakia soon adopted wide-ranging free market economic reforms and split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
In March Milos Zeman became the country’s first popularly elected president. The former Social Democratic prime minister has roiled Czech politics by claiming ever more expansive authority.
Most dramatically, after the prime minister’s summer resignation President Zeman appointed a leftist government against the wishes of the parliamentary majority. The new cabinet lost a vote of confidence, but remains as caretaker until the upcoming election.
Equally controversial are the president’s policies. As I wrote in my new Forbes online article:
Moreover, the president reversed course on the EU after appealing to supporters of the Euro-skeptic [former President Vaclav] Klaus during the presidential campaign. Once in office President Zeman hoisted the EU flag over the Prague Castle, which hosts the presidential office, and signed the European Stability Mechanism, the EU bail-out fund. He describes himself as a “Euro-Federalist,” advocates common European fiscal, tax, foreign, and defense policies, and supports adopting the Euro as the Czech currency.
The greater worry is the revival of the Communist Party. As memories of Communist repression fade, some Czechs long for the perceived stability of the past.