Observers warn of dangers of letting nationalism genie out of bottle

Jiri Pehe

If there's one theme dominating this election campaign, it's summed up by that rather vague term "defending national interests". Amid a new row over the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia's ethnic Germans, all the parties are trying to prove that they're better at "defending national interests" than anyone else. All three major parties - all except the Communists - have tramped up and down a hill called Rip, a hill deeply connected with Czech mythology, to either launch, or breathe life into lacklustre election campaigns. Those politicians would strenuously deny accusations of playing the nationalist card, but critics say the genie is already well out of the bottle. Some of those critics have launched a petition called "Stop Nationalism"; among them is the political analyst Jiri Pehe.