Czech politicians to get Code of Ethics

26-08-2004

In the wake of the latest bribery scandal in Parliament, the leaders of all parliamentary parties have agreed that Czech politicians badly need a Code of Ethics. The document should clear up some controversial questions such as: what is and what is not a bribe - and is it morally acceptable for parliament deputies to change their party affiliation between elections. We put those questions to political analyst Jiri Pehe.

"Well, I think that the line /between what is and what is not a bribe/ is very blurred in Czech politics. Because of the process of economic transformation there are many posts controlled by the government, positions that are potentially very lucrative financially and in the long run holding such a position may be something that a particular politician prefers over cash. So the line between cash and lucrative positions is very blurred and it is also very difficult to capture in some kind of an ethical codex. "

Can you imagine Czech politics without lucrative posts being offered?

"No. I think that this tendency may in a way diminish. As the process of privatization comes to an end, I can imagine that there will be fewer such offers. On the other hand, this is unfortunately a feature shared by all democracies and much depends on political culture and unwritten rules that apply in any given country."

Another question that is being discussed is -is party hopping immoral? Should that be part of the codex and do you believe that it shouldn't happen between elections?

"I think that party hopping is tied to or should be tied to the electoral system. It is quite normal in a majority system, let's say in the US, that people do change their party affiliation and no one is too upset about it because politicians are elected not only on party tickets but also as personalities. In the system that we use - that is the proportionate system - politicians are nominated on party tickets, they run on party tickets and then it is, to some extent, immoral when a politician changes his party affiliation between elections. I think that a politician should have the right to express his views, to be independent and the Czech Constitution guarantees that -on the other hand, I think that if a politician who has been elected on a particular party ticket decides that he or she no longer want to be a party member then they should leave Parliament."

Do you think that a code of ethics is a good idea - that it will prove useful - when we don't have years of political culture behind us?

"I am not sure that in a country such as the Czech Republic - where the ethical system was destroyed by communism - that it will be very efficient to have something on paper that we will call a Code of Ethics. At this point I would prefer good laws on conflict of interest, good laws that define what is lobbying and what is not, good anti-corruption laws."

26-08-2004