The Czech Republic suffers from some of the worst corruption in the world. Official decision making is often hijacked by financial and political networks to enrich and benefit the powerful few.
To fight this, dozens of activists and experts got together to push for nine anticorruption bills aimed at increasing transparency while stopping conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds. The centerpiece of their efforts? A public pledge to support the anticorruption measures, which they put before every member of parliament.
At first, progress was painfully slow. But during snap elections in 2013, hundreds of volunteers took our cause directly to the candidates. Ultimately, 165 out of 200 members of parliament promised to support the reforms.
But the initial victory was short-lived. Eventually, parliament passed only one of the nine bills. The rest succumbed to an onslaught of excuses, delays, lobbyists, and political infighting. As the tide turned against reform, members of parliament started to demonize the pledge itself, calling us blackmailers, extremists, and radicals. The media eventually moved on to other issues.
Despite all these obstacles, we managed to get five of the proposed reforms passed by working with a small group of politicians across the party lines who actively advocated for the bills. Our initiative also inspired other coalitions to lead similar campaigns both at home and in neighboring countries. It’s a step in the right direction for a country that desperately needs to change the way it does business.