Happy Fourth Birthday to my blog and an update on previous posts

Lapel badge for supporters of Karel Schwarzenberg © Ricky Yates

Lapel badge for supporters of Karel Schwarzenberg © Ricky Yates

Today my blog celebrates its fourth birthday. I wrote my first ever post four years ago today – this post today is post number 213.

Whilst today is a day for a little celebration, I still am somewhat disappointed with myself. A year ago when writing a blogpost to mark the third birthday of my blog, I promised to write at least fifty-two posts during the following year that ended yesterday. I fell short – I only managed fifty.

It is not that I lack things to write about as I have at least four topics noted down for future posts. It is the problem of finding the time to sit down and compile a coherent post when I also have a rather important day-job to do. Of course, it isn’t a job but rather a vocation. And I hold an office rather than having a job description to fulfil. But I hope my blog readers understand what I mean.

I am also very aware that I’ve written about certain issues or events in the past, but never given a further update. So let me use this fourth anniversary post to correct that omission.

Czech Presidential Election

Further to my earlier post, the second round of voting took place on Friday 25th & Saturday 26th January. The outcome was a victory for Miloš Zeman, who gained just under 55% of the vote, with just over 45% going to Karel Schwarzenberg. Sadly the outcome has resulted in bitter recriminations and left a somewhat divided country.

Schwarzenberg polled extremely well in Prague taking two thirds of the vote. He also polled well in other major cities, especially Brno, and was very popular amongst educated young people. On the other hand, Zeman polled well in the rural area and smaller towns, and also in those areas where there was once heavy industry which now no longer provides employment to any great degree. In simple terms, those who have prospered in the last twenty years and those who through higher education, see good future prospects for themselves, voted for Schwarzenberg. Whilst those who have done less well since the Velvet Revolution in the rapid move to a market driven economy, voted for Zeman.

Recriminations have been around the tactics used by Zeman and his supporters, during the final days of the election campaign. These have been variously described as populist, nationalist and xenophobic. They included complaining that Schwarzenberg’s wife doesn’t speak Czech, (she is Austrian), that Schwarzenberg isn’t really a true patriot because he lived abroad during the time of the Communist regime, and over remarks he made about how the Beneš decrees, which resulted in the expulsion of the Sudetendeutsche in 1945, would now be regarded as ethnic cleansing.

The complaints from the Schwarzenberg camp about Zeman, relate to his personal character and those who supported his campaign. His campaign was well funded but without total clarity as to who did so. He is known to have connections with some Russians and other dubious characters and the fear is, that these supporters, will expect some form of financial payback during the next five years.

Zeman is also known as being a heavy smoker and heavy drinker. On the light-hearted side, I’ve already seen a photo-shopped image of him meeting my Queen with a cigarette in his hand, and asking for an ashtray 🙂 More seriously, he was filmed falling over whilst walking from where he was sitting watching the TV coverage of the counting of the votes, in order to give his first interview, once it had become clear he had won the election. Whether it was a genuine trip or the result of several shots of Becherovka is a matter of debate.

My latest run-in with Czech Bureaucracy

Today I resumed battle with Czech bureaucracy, in my attempt to exchange my current UK Driving Licence, for Czech Driving Licence. And I had fifty percent success!

By presenting a signed and stamped document on headed notepaper in the name of Farní obec Starokatolické církve pro verící anglického jazyka v Praze, the legal entity of my congregation with the Czech Ministry of Culture, in which I stated in Czech, that Sybille and I have permission to live in the Chaplaincy Flat where we have lived in for the past four and a half years, I successfully proved that this is my permanent family home. Success came because I was also able to also present a notarised copy of the congregation’s registration with the Czech Ministry of Culture, which shows me as the authorised person to sign on its behalf.

But at the same time, I was turned into a layman. Despite having my title of ‘Rev’ on two official documents, (driving licence and passport), of another EU state, I will not have ‘Rev’ in front of my name on my new Czech Driving Licence which will be issued to me on 21st February. I do find it very poor that, a nation for whom having academic titles in front of their names is so important, that they will not accept mine. I am given to understand that only Czech academic titles are acceptable. Clearly this is a decision made by JUDr Czech Bureaucrat. 🙁

I am hopeful that this will be my last run-in with Czech bureaucracy. However, if it is, I might struggle to find material for at least fifty more blog posts in the coming year 🙂


11 comments to Happy Fourth Birthday to my blog and an update on previous posts

  • Sarka

    I must admit I was slightly offended by description of the voters of MZ in the presidential election that you made in your article.

    I personally think that the results are mainly manifestation of dissatisfaction with the current government, it’s strategies and mishaps. Karel Schwarzenberg is a current Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of one of the parties in the Parliament, TOP 09. I am university educated, young and from a big city and I voted for Miloš Zeman. My parents who are also university educated and really not poor and also originally from cities voted for him as well.

    It’s just that we are politically left-wing oriented and can’t vote for someone who is part of the current rather strongly antisocial government (I don’t think that who is rich must be automatically right-wing). That would be really opposite to our beliefs. I also don’t think there was this too simple equation:

    education, money, success after 1989 -> choice of candidate.

    The high number of votes for KS were maybe an outcome of the extremely generous and smart PR strategy. TOP 09 is really good at it. As a freelance I worked for an agency engaged in a project for TOP 09.

    Of course, I would be much more happy to have different candidates to choose from in the second round. Miloš Zeman is really not a likeable person.

    I don’t mean to offend you 🙂 I just think that reasons of the election outcomes and description of the voters’ background were way too simplistic in your article and probably taken over from a source/sources favouring Karel Schwarzenerg.

    • Ricky

      Thank you Sarka for thoughtful comment and I apologise for causing offence even if it was only slight 🙁

      There is always a danger when making generalisations, of being too simplistic because there will always be those who don’t fit the pattern. And I do agree with you that the fact that KS is part of the current somewhat unpopular government, did not help his cause and was certainly used by MZ against him. Likewise, I know you were not alone in not liking the choice of candidates in the second round of voting. I think this was responsible for the slightly lower voter turnout in the second round as compared to the first round.

  • Congratulations on your blog’s fourth birthday, Ricky,and best wishes for its future. I’m not qualified to comment on the Czech election, but I can congratulate you on the acquisition of your Czech driving licence, albeit as a ‘layman’. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Thank you for the congratulations Perpetua. And thank you for being one of my most faithful visitors & commenters. I haven’t quite yet acquired my Czech driving licence – I will collect it on Thursday 21st February from the offices of Magistrát hl.m. Praha / the HQ of Prague City Council, where I have to appear in person with ID (my UK passport), pay CZK 50 / £1.70 & surrender both parts of my UK driving licence. And I intend to wear my clerical shirt & collar, just to express my displeasure at being made a layman 🙁

  • Russell Roe

    Happy Birthday to your blog Ricky, just 1 day after mine 😛 I am very grateful that you continue to write so thoughtfully about such a range of issues, so I am not at all concerned about you missing your target 🙂 I wonder what, if anything, the British embassy could do to help with retaining your Rev’d title? I think it is outrageous that your title is being denied, particularly when they strive to keep them more than we do in Britain. At least the Czechs can’t take it away from your British passport.

    I completely agree with your comment Sarka, particularly about Schwarzenberg’s smart and effective PR. I think it is, for the most part, true that those in urban areas voted for Schwarzenberg and rural/industrial areas voted for Zeman however, I don’t feel it is the case that pessimists voted for Zeman and optimists for Schwarzenberg as you implied Ricky. But, I fully take on board what you said in your comment about the risk of making generalisations. 🙂 I also agree with you Sarka (and I presume, this time, with Ricky!) that Miloš Zeman is not a likeable person as evidenced by his tactics. Even though, Zeman may have shown himself to be unfriendly I strongly believe he was an effective politician for making CSSD into a strong political party and consequently weakening the communists. I think what he did then was commendable even though he did leave CSSD afterwards and after Havel and Klaus I think it’s fair to say he is one of the most well known and influential Czech politicians.

    I suspect that Communist voters, who are unsurprisingly pessimistic about the current political and economic situation, would have voted for Zeman but imo Zeman’s appeal was much greater than pessimists and Communist voters and sympathisers.

    • Ricky

      Hi Russell – Thank you for your blog birthday wishes & kind words.

      Regarding my formal title, what most surprised me was that, as ‘Rev’ appears on my UK driving licence I’m exchanging, I was sure that Czech bureaucrats would insist that it appeared on my new Czech driving licence so the two would agree with each other. But the official position is that hereditary and religious titles are not permissible – only Czech academic ones. Which raises an interesting point. Does President-elect Zeman, when he meets your head of state & mine, have to address her as Mrs Windsor, or more likely, as Mrs Windsorová???

      Regarding the second round of the Czech Presidential Election, I did myself point out, that part of Schwarzenberg’s success in the first round was due to good PR or more specifically, due to good graphic design work. As I said in reply to Sarka and as you acknowledge, there is always a danger when making generalisations. I think using the word ‘predominantly’ a couple of times, might have helped 🙂

      It will be interesting to see how Zeman relates to the CSSD. There is a faction of the party who still like him & another which is very anti.

  • Heather Garnett

    Hi Ricky, I found your blog about the elections very informative. With our daughter being resident in Prague I’m interested to learn more about CZ, as hitherto I’ve been very ignorant about the country generally (as I suspect are most people in the UK). Keep up the literary work, I’ll be following your blog :).

    • Ricky

      Thank you Heather. I’m glad you found my two posts about the recent Czech Presidential election, informative. Part of the problem of UK residents being fairly ignorant about the Czech Republic is that very little about the country seems to be reported in the British news media. In the nearly four & a half years that I’ve lived here, the only time the country featured as the lead story on the BBC News website, was when former President Václav Havel died in December 2011. See my http://rickyyates.com/vaclav-havel-death-of-a-statesman/ . And even then, the story got rapidly displaced by other events.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Keep visiting & leaving comments!

  • It’s a pity about your title. 🙁 And stupid that only Czech ones would be accepted, because I’m sure there are also Czechs who have studied abroad – what happens to them, I wonder?

    • Ricky

      Thanks for the sympathy Hana. I’ve decided that losing ‘Rev’ from my driving licence is a battle with Czech bureaucracy that I’m not going to win. To answer your question – the official document awarding the foreign academic qualification would need to be translated into Czech by an officially authorised translator, notarised, etc., etc 😉

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