Governments in “Crisis”

Sorry for long hiatus recently — I’ve been quite busy with the restaurant these last few months.

In the meantime, however, two Eastern European governments have fallen, and nobody really seems to care. In Prague, the ineffectual Vladimir Spidla resigned as Prime Minister in late June. Most of the country was too wrapped up in the Euro 2004 quarterfinals to really give a hoot. As Doug Arellanes summed it up: “Football! Yeah! Oh, and the government fell…”

Then last night I happened to be speaking on the phone with a fellow journalist in Budapest who informed me that Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy resigned yesterday. We both snickered at the non-newsworthiness of the event.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. It used to be that governmental changes in Eastern Europe were, shall we say, a pretty big deal. During the 1998 elections, most Czechs spoke as though the very future of the country hinged on the outcome.

Vladimir Spidla, when he took over as Czech premier two years ago, was perhaps best known as the first Czech head of government who wasn’t known for much of anything. Vaclav Klaus was a cocky, arrogant and outspoken PM in whom millions of Czechs invested a distrubing amount of faith. Milos Zeman came across as a populist sot with an uncanny resemblence to Jabba the Hutt. Spidla, on the other hand, was a regular nobody with few salient ticks or features. If you were to meet him at a party, you’d forget him faster than you could finish a canap?. Stanislav Gross, his successor, at least has the distinction of being Europe’s youngest prime minister, yet he seems to revel in being vapid.

I don’t know too much about the Hungarian political scene, beyond that ex-PM Viktor Orban seems like a bit of a nutter, but it’s probably enough to point out that the New York Times and International Herald Tribune didn’t even have their own correspondent pen the piece about Medgyessy’s resignation. The IHT ran AP wire copy instead.