The first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, said more than once that states are held together by the ideas on which they were founded. Czechoslovakia and its offspring have often demonstrated the truth of this observation.
The first round of elections for the director of the Nation's Memory Institute on January 30 ended in farce, as the vote was declared invalid when 144 MPs returned 145 ballots. On the second attempt, despite apparent objections by Deputy PM Dušan Čaplovič to the candidate of the far-right SNS, Ivan Petranský, ruling coalition MPs voted dutifully together after a reminder from the SNS that each party should be allowed to choose its own candidates under the divide-the-spoils system the government has chosen.
The Act on the Nation's Memory Institute says that its role is to "publish the secret activities of the organs of repression during the totalitarian period from 1939-1989, and to assign responsibility for the murders, enslavement, theft, and insults, as well as the moral and economic degradation caused by state crimes and terror campaigns against people who held different opinions".
That should be clear enough, but there is just as clearly a gap between what those statutes say, and what happened this week. The election of Ivan Petranský, despite the news that he had attended a celebration of the wartime fascist state in 2005 that was also attended by neo-Nazi leader Marián Kotleba, is not a good beginning.
Hospodárske Noviny, February 1
5. Feb 2007 at 0:00