Did Hašek have to earn a JUDr. from Sládkovičovo?

Voters have a right to know the legal qualifications of Michal Hašek, who could become the next ČSSD leader or even the prime minister

Politics & Policy
Bohumil J. Studýnka | 18.03.2011
As a native son of Moravia, Hašek may not have wanted to study in the Czech capital alongside the Cajzli. But did he have to sit for his juris doctor exam at an obscure, second-rate school in Slovakia?

Michal Hašek has a fair chance of being named the next leader of the main opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) at this weekend’s party congress in Brno, South Moravia. Whatever the result of that insiders’ contest — he’s the people’s favorite, but the party elite favor Bohuslav Sobotka — the ČSSD is doing better in opinion polls than the center-right Civic Democrats (ODS) and its partners in the ruling coalition.

According to the latest Center for Empirical Studies (STEM) poll, if elections were held today the governing coalition of the Civic Democrats (ODS), TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV) would gain only 89 seats in the 200-member lower house of Parliament. As such, Hašek could well become prime minister one day. Therefore, it’s worth examining the academic qualifications of this young politician — the current South Moravia regional governor and chairman of the Association of the Regions. Is the JUDr. worth the paper it’s printed on? Thus far, the media hasn’t taken a hard look at the young politician’s credentials.

Thus far, the media hasn’t taken a hard look at his credentials to determine how and where Hašeked earn the title of juris doctor (or JUDr., in Czech) and whether it is worth the paper it is printed on.

Hašek received his master’s degree from the prestigious Law Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno — which can rightfully boast to be on par with the Law Faculty of Charles University in Prague — and which was a bastion of progressive law during the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. Proud graduates of that Brno institution would certainly wish to obtain a higher degree either there or from a comparable (over even more prestigious) university. But Hašek did not earn his JUDr in Brno.

A none-too prestigious faculty

It’s understandable — given Moravian regional pride and his own political aspirations — that Hašek wouldn’t want to study in the Czech capital alongside the “Cajzli” (Brno slang for “Prague assholes”) although we could allow for the possibility. Leaving aside the law degree diploma mill at the Law Faculty of the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň — where a number of politicians have miraculously earned their sheepskins in a matter of months (not years) and without attending classes — Hašek could have opted for the Law Faculty of Palacký University in Olomouc, which is also in Moravia. Renamed and even closed at times over the centuries, the university has its roots in the 16th century. Its law faculty has just marked its 20th anniversary.

The wristwatch incident

But Hašek chose the path of least resistance, undergoing the (normally) rigorous examination to earn his juris doctor at an obscure law school in the southwestern town of Sládkovičovo in Slovakia, known as Diószeg by the local ethnic Hungarians. This seat of higher learning also happens to be led by a friend to Hašek and the Social Democrats from the Slovakia’s left-leaning Smer party.

While the law faculty in Sládkovičovo may enjoy a better reputation, relatively speaking, than does the scandal-ridden one in Plzeň, as it says on its website, the institution is basically a regional one. Founded in 2005, it has three faculties (including law), two departments and three institutes. It’s not for us to rate the school, but as regards Hašek it is important to point out a footnote to the 2009 “Word from the Rector” posted on its website: “We offer rigorous JUDr. examinations.”

On a business trip to Switzerland, my former boss at the Czech National Bank (ČNB) once asked for advice as to which wristwatch he should buy. My answer: Either a Czechoslovak “Primky” or a fine Swiss watch without diamonds or gold. As the central bank governor, there was no other choice. Certainly not a Japanese watch, even if of quality and not a forgery. The answer still stands. Indeed, the current Czech president wears a gold watch from Prim.

Appropriate education

Even Lubomír Štrougal had to sit for rigorous exams (twice) to earn the title of JUDr. from Charles UniversityHašek aspires to lead the opposition ČSSD, win the parliamentary elections and, if successful, even become Czech prime minister. Voters should be treated with respect and deserve to know the academic background of their potential leader. Even Lubomír Štrougal, the penultimate Czechoslovak prime minister under the former regime, had to pass rigorous proceedings to earn the title of JUDr. from Charles University. And even back then the public knew that Štrougal had failed in his first attempt, much to their malicious delight. But the process was proper, dignified and impressive.

This was not the case for the young Hašek, who — it bears repeating — may eventually become Czech prime minister. Voters should be treated with respect and deserve to know the academic background of their potential leader.

As a voter and Czech citizen myself, I want to know that my prime minister has received a proper education and from an institution about which there’s no shadow of doubt as to its quality, fairness and representation. The equivalent of “Swiss watch,” for example, is a degree from a prestigious foreign law faculty like those of Harvard, Heidelberg or the University of London. And no other!

Alas, a clear tradition has emerged among ČSSD and ODS functionaries regarding rigorous examinations at second-rate and problematic schools of higher learning. It shouldn’t continue. Instead of sending his doctoral thesis for additional credentials to a Czech law school, Hašek should have his knowledge of jurisprudence and state affairs rigorously examined at one of these venerable institutions. And nothing else!

See related articles:

Is Donald Duck the ideal Social Democrat leader?

Sobotka, not Hašek, likely new ČSSD leader

Poll: Public favors Hašek to lead ČSSD; party voters want Sobotka 

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