24. října 2016 | News

Martin Konečný: Naděje pro „českou věc veřejnou“?

Pondělní glosa

The very good result, scored by Mayors and Independents (STAN) in recent regional and Senate elections, might be a promise of positive change to the Czech Republic. Maybe this party really associates people striving to change things for the better at the local level and not just grumbling over bad conditions.

Their philosophy us fairly straightforward: One should better build a community playground for kids than agonize over the dirty games some politicos play; one should better build a local sewage network than endlessly lament over smelly gunk seeping, let’s say, from the Prague Castle sewers.

The Mayors were also able to use a simple positive strategy in their election campaign: We have done hell of a lot of good work, and what we’ve done for our municipalities can be done for our regions as well. We hand out melons, not doughnuts. Melons are the gift of sun and fruit of human labour. They are not frozen foods, offered Agrofert-style.

It should be noted that the average age of STAN councillors is lower than in the classic political parties.

All this gives hope that in the next decade, a new generation of political leaders could come to power, who do not take politics for a fast road to getting rich quick.

A friend of mine, mayor of a Central Bohemian municipality, confides with me about all the things he stumbled upon when taking office. He said:

“Subsidies are evil, no bones about it. Not only do they prevent municipalities to better plan for future, but they have a heck of corruption potential; they virtually invite waste. When I begged for subsidies in the Region for the first time—money for a couple of projects—a kind of middleman phoned to say: everything on the phone, no paper there, so we can raise the budgets in the application by 40%. You know, says the guy at the other end of the line, Region also wants some gravy. You will need to have these four firms for the small contract, he prattled… And Rath was in detention by then! I was perplexed, I didn’t know what to do. So I figured I might contact those four firms, but invite some other to boot. All the firms, recommended by the Region, quoted about the same price, the one pressed by that character. Well, of course, the contract went to a firm that was 40 percent cheaper. It dawned on me that the Region had tested me, how I would act, and if we can get subsidies for bigger projects. Small wonder we didn’t ever get another subsidy. I didn’t have direct proof of the Region wasting so much money, and what could I do? I’m only trying to get things right, I put all documents in the files and disclose all contracts on the net. All we do in here was honestly won in tenders. I only hope I won’t be hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing one fine day…”

My friend, just like many other mayors, supported a demo in the autumn of 2015 against opaque subsidies. Many of them ran for STAN in the recent regional and Senate elections, and they won. Can we hope they are a promise of change in Czech politics?

It is high time for change. Otherwise the country would choke in hazardous waste from (not only) Prague Castle, and the nation would totally lose interest in who plays what dirty political games.

However, in order to live, people need more than a hope that a fresh wind will blow from the West against the Eastern wind, which blows hordes of paid haters and trolls from out there. People need more than the promise that their mayors will not steal from them. They need to discover and bask in the creative environment of togetherness, as formulated, very simply, freshly and convincingly, by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

I’d like to advise not only my friends, but all politicos, to put emphasis—besides corruption, which is the symbol of a malady affecting society as a whole—also and mainly on issues supportive of personal development and human growth that are the core of societal change, namely schools, education and upbringing. Let’s start there and change a lot of things.

Martin Konečný - whistleblower, he was awarded the Prize for Courage 2012