Could Czech Republic’s newest anti-corruption party be the dark horse in this election?
First attracted the attention of many Czechs due to his direct involvement in the investigations surrounding the Necas government’s corruption scandals in 2013, Slachta has come back to the public eye with his biography, Thirty years under oath, published in April 2020. It described his experience in fighting corrupt politicians and mobsters, and the book continues to sell well in Czech bookstores.
“In his book, Slachta painstakingly created an image of himself as a tough and incorruptible policeman, who has always stood on the right side and has always represented the public interest in catching criminals, no matter how powerful- they, ”says Kupka.
“This image may have a lot of flaws, but his fans have taken it as their own. The election campaign is sort of his grand tour across the country, where he is ready to answer any questions his supporters and random passers-by can look without looking like a career politician, ”he adds.
Binding to each other by referring to Slachta’s “oath” to fight corruption, the success of the biography was instrumental in the start of the movement itself, quickly attracting strong supporters, some of whom began to serve. as volunteers in the Prisaha election campaign.
In a recent TV spot, Slachta mentions a total of 5,000 members who have since joined the movement. Others in the Czech media have noticed the appearance of banners and posters that some avid followers have since affixed to their homes. The avid followers of Prisaha may have since become one of its main characteristics.
“The movement was founded on Slachta’s book. We have brought the book to various interviews and debates with the public. But people quickly became interested not only in the book, but also in political issues, ”Jaroslav Pelc, former Slachta colleague of the Department for Organized Crime Investigation and leader of Prisaha in the region, told BIRN. ‘Usti nad Labem, at a press conference. visit to a countryside there during the summer.
For Pelc, Prisaha’s field campaigns are fundamental to the movement as a whole. Appearing weekly in a number of Czech towns, large and small, Prisaha members and volunteers – often including a visit from Slachta himself – search for signatures for party petitions to open for consideration public the government’s COVID-19 trade agreements.
“The atmosphere around Prisaha reminded me of the start of the Civic Forum in 1989,” explains Monika Zimmerova, who is the 20th candidate on the Prisaha ticket for the Usti nad Labem region, referring to the political movement founded by Vaclav Havel during the Velvet Revolution. .
Zimmerova knew Slachta before and decided to read her book, which quickly led her to join the movement. Previously voting for established parties, she became disillusioned with the state of Czech politics and corruption scandals. “I looked him straight in the eye and knew he was an honest man,” Zimmerova told BIRN.
For many of its volunteers, Prisaha quickly became their party of choice after being disappointed with their previous votes.
“Slachta knows what he is talking about and I am committed to supporting him,” said a volunteer in Usti nad Labem, who expressed frustration with the perceived lack of justice in the Czech Republic. He had previously voted for the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) before turning to Babis’ ANO. “They did not keep the promises they had made,” he accuses ANO.
“I had a big problem,” a volunteer near Florenc metro station in Prague told BIRN when asked who she initially wanted to vote for before joining Prisaha. “In previous elections, unfortunately I always voted for someone just to make sure someone else doesn’t come in.”
Asking that her name not be disclosed, the volunteer said she felt the current Czech government was incapable of tackling corruption, believing Slachta would be a better bet for it.
The idea of voting for a movement, which features more than a few personalities linked to Slachta’s previous career in law enforcement, seems particularly appealing to some and disturbing to others. “There is experience – the majority of its top candidates have first-hand experience fighting crime in the Czech Republic,” says Jan Ihnat, who is running for a seat for Prisaha in the Usti nad Labem region.
Although he acknowledges the call, Pelc, who spoke to BIRN on the day of the Prisaha ground campaign in Usti nad Labem, believes the party has more to offer. “We want to create a stable movement that will continue to grow,” he said.
To some extent, Pelc believes the move could attract disgruntled voters from established parties, as well as those who have already tried their luck with other populist political parties, be it the dissolved Realist. [Realists] or Usvit [Dawn], which was originally the first political party behind Tomio Okamura, leader of the far-right SPD. Recently, Prisaha fired two members of her Prague ticket who had served as members of the State Security (StB) in Communist Czechoslovakia.
Although some have hinted at the decline in Prisaha’s momentum in recent weeks, in part due to her early campaign start and the resurgent success of Babis’ NOA, reaching the 5 percent threshold remains an issue. distinct possibility – especially with new revelations about Babi’s financial affairs coming up in the final week of the campaign in the Pandora Papers.
But while Prisaha could play a key role in forming the next government if he succeeds, the implementation of his many campaign promises remains questionable. More urgently, if he fails to enter parliament, his populist anti-corruption platform could disappear as quickly as it once appeared.