TOP 09 stage Cabinet meeting walk out, demand Bátora’s exit

TOP 09 seeks head of Ladislav Bátora, who called party chair and Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg a ‘sorry little old man’ on Facebook

HOT TOP|Politics & Policy
Brian Kenety | 17.08.2011
Ultra-conservative public official Ladislav Bátora, an adviser to the education minister, has lashed out against homosexuals and political correctness

All five Cabinet ministers from TOP 09, the second of the three parties in the center-right coalition government, walked out of Wednesday’s government meeting to protest insults to their party chairman, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, 73, posted by a controversial ultra-right adviser to the Education Minister on his Facebook page last week.

Ladislav Bátora, the adviser to Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV) and personnel director at the Education Ministry, referred to Schwarzenberg on the social networking site as a “sorry little old man” (chudáček starej) whom he said “sputters shamelessly when he knows I can’t challenge him to a duel for at least three reasons.” The insults came not long after the foreign minister had said Bátora was not suitable to hold the position due to his extreme views.

TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek, the current finance minister who is said to be the real power behind the throne, reportedly earlier called Bátora an “old fascist.” Following today’s walk-out, he said that if Dobeš continued to provide political support “to an official who publicly and vulgarly offends the first deputy prime minister [Schwarzenberg], we will not pretend that Dobeš is our colleague.”

Foreign Minister and TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg

There is certainly no love lost between the two junior parties in the government coaltion, led by the Civic Democrats (ODS). In recent months, TOP 09 and VV leadership have demanded the resignations of the others’ Cabinet ministers; though Kalousek remains in office, VV’s top leadership, were pushed out (ex-Interior Minister Radek John and ex-Transport Minister Vít Bárta, the party’s paymaster who may be stripped of his parliamentary immunity to face charges of bribery relating to the “cash for loyalty” scandal).

The war of words might have simmered on a slower boil had Bátora — whose appointment sparked outrage among human rights activists due to his ties to a far-right party — not made headlines last week for condemning US Ambassador Norman Eisen and other ambassadors’ support for Prague Pride, the capital’s first gay and lesbian festival.

In early August, a group of Czech senators called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) to secure the dismissal of Bátora from his post at the Education Ministry over his connections to the extremist National Party (NS) and participation in lectures organized by the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front (Vlastenecká fronta).

Education Minister Josef Dobeš (VV) stands by his right-hand man

Dobeš has defended his adviser as a “loyal scholar of the nation” and a Catholic, and claimed there is no evidence to support charges that Bátora — who is involved in the ultra-conservative civic initiative D.O.S.T. (“Trust, Objectivity, Freedom and Tradition”) whose acronym translates as “enough” — is a racist.

While Dobeš has apologized to Schwarzenberg on behalf of his adviser, the education minster said he does not intend to dismiss him, arguing that while Bátora may have breeched rules of decorum, he —even though a public official — was still entitled to voice his opinion. Nečas said the apology was late in coming and that the education minister should not have defended his adviser’s behavior.

For his part, Schwarzenberg has expressed skepticism that Bátora — whom he told Hospodářské noviny last week enjoys “very high-placed protection,” an apparent reference to President Václav Klaus — will be forced to step down. “I don’t know whether anyone will dare remove him,” he said.

Nečas, who characterized Bátora’s remarks as “vulgar and provincial,” stopped short of making such threats, but strongly implied it was the right course of action. “If any of my colleagues spoke in a similarly offensive manner about any member of the government — of any party — they would immediately lose their position,” he said.

The ‘life and times’ of Ladislav Bátora

In 1990, Bátora was expelled from the Czechoslovak Socialist Party (ČSS), apparently due to an attempt to make right-wing reforms, and went on to found the National Social Party (NSS) in September that year. In late 1993, he joined the center-right Civil Democratic Alliance (ODA), leaving it in 2001, when he began writing a Czech history in 12 volumes called “Czech Revue: My Nation and My Homeland.” In 2006, he ran for Parliament as an independent in the first place for the extreme-right National Party (NS).

In a 2003 article titled “The Life and Times of the Associate Judge Bátora,” the weekly magazine Respekt wrote Bátora, then a magistrate, had made biased decisions in sentencing Romany (“Gypsy”) offenders. He is alleged to have said, “If I were to identify with someone, then it would definitely be Jörg Haider or Jean-Marie Le Pen” but later denied naming the Austrian and French extremists as role models. 

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