EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy

 

My previous blog ”In Search of a New Political Culture” focused on the increasingly toxic political culture of dismantling the legacy of predecessors at all costs rather than fostering a culture of cooperation, and the consequences hereof.

To sum it up, if our democracies only revolve around 4 to 8 year vicious election cycles in which ever more extremist and polarizing policies are pursued in order to retain political territory, rather than visionary cooperation with the aim of building an inclusive and cohesive society, then our democracies has manifestly failed.

There is another way. Denmark is a prime examples hereof. Since 1945 to 1998, Denmark had either a Social Democratic (Centre-Left) government or a coalition government including Centre-Left parties in 41 of the years. This was not due to lack of alternatives; Denmark has traditionally had a plethora of parties to choose, in part due to democratic tradition, in part due to the low threshold required to enter government (2%).

However, after being granted the Marshall Aid and facing the challenge of how to rebuild and restructure society after the German occupation, Denmark opted for a visionary and very ambitious task: laying the foundations for the world’s largest relative to population welfare state, with all that entails of high taxation and high social and economic security.

The country succeeded due to the initial boost in the form of Marshall Aid, but more importantly, the success of the project was long lasting and sustainable because it democratically debated and agreed upon which direction its society should develop, regardless of which government would be in place. Parties across the political spectrum broadly agreed that the Danish welfare state model was a priority, even if they disagreed vehemently in other areas, such as whether or not the state should run the national railway company, or on the levels of defense spending.

Naturally, it is hard to compare Denmark and the Czech Republic; the Iron Curtain prohibited the visionary society building that contributed greatly to shaping Denmark and making it one of the wealthiest countries in the world, despite not having notable natural resources or large territory (Greenland is a complex issue better reserved for an independent discussion). Furthermore, the Czech Republic should not compare itself to Denmark; they are equals, and in very short time, the Czech Republic has achieved great things on its own path.

However, since 1993 and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic has had 13 governments, several of them falling due to scandals and lack of confidence. In such a short time span of 24 years, having so many governments in such a volatile political climate is a recipe for instability and lack of political continuity.

In most, possibly all, cases, there were good reasons for those governments falling – yet the constant changes of government, coupled with a corresponding low faith in politicians and political institutions, has spawned a culture of hastily implemented and ill-conceived policies (and policy rollbacks) leaving only one clear loser: the people. In this aspect, if nowhere else, the Czech Republic would do well to take a page out of Denmark’s book.

Czechs deserve more dignity. They deserve honorable politicians tackling the endemic corruption within the political sphere, so that multipartizan visions across the political spectrum can create a strong, sustainable foundation for the society building that is still to this day essential to the Czech Republic.

With Czech elections coming up in 2017, achieving this is essential to restoring the historically low faith in politicians and the political sphere itself.

Regardless of who wins the elections, it is my hope that whoever ends up in government and opposition will seek common ground. That they will remember they are ultimately on the “same team”, and that despite differences of convictions, they will strive to work together in areas in which common ground can be found. Not only will it create more robust policies with a sense of ownership across the political spectrum, it will also pave the way for a more mature political culture that acts as a bulwark against petty political extremism in the future.

If that happens, the Czech Republic has all the prerequisites to needed to achieve meaningful, prosperous change. The alternative is a return to the vicious cycle of the past. The Czech Republic deserves better.

Christian Kvorning Lassen

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