Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Czech Prime Minister resigns

Yet another scandal in the Czech Republic and it comes at a difficult time as the country's economy is rather shaky. Well, whose isn't? The eurozone is its biggest market and the eurozone is not doing terribly well. According to the Wall Street Journal [you can get round the pay wall by putting the title of the article into Google]
Prime Minister Petr Necas, who has been in office three years, handed in his resignation to President Milos Zeman days after his chief of staff, Jana Nagyova, was arrested on criminal charges, including allegedly ordering military intelligence to spy on Mr. Necas's wife.
Election is due next year and the President seems to have decided to wait for the right time and to appoint an interim Prime Minister. In the meantime he has asked Mr Necas to carry on as acting Prime Minister. The chances are that it will be a member of the Civic Democratic Party who will be asked to form the government.

So what is the scandal about this time? Largely about an abuse-of-power enquiry that involves Mr Necas's Chief of Staff, Jana Nagyova.
Ms. Nagyova was charged with abuse of power in connection with what prosecutors said was an unsanctioned use of the country's military-intelligence agency. She appeared in court on Saturday and was ordered held in custody as the investigation continues.

Prosecutors said she also allegedly helped bribe three ruling-party lawmakers—who were also arrested—to drop their rebellion against Mr. Necas in Parliament last year in exchange for jobs in state-run companies.

Her lawyer, Eduard Bruna, said she denied all the charges. He said Ms. Nagyova had sought to protect Radka Necasova, the prime minister's wife, and others from potential security threats, allegedly involving attempts by members of Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination, to contact Ms. Necasova.
Jehovah's Witnesses? I know they can be something of a nuisance but a security threat? Really, Ms Nagyova ought to have been sacked long ago for complete lack of imagination. Dariusz Kałan gives the background to the latest manifestation of Czech power politics in EUObserver. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was not the one to come up with that daft headline: Czech Watergate: All the Prime Minister's Women.
A political earthquake struck the Czech republic on Thursday night (13 June) directly after Prime Minister Petr Necas' cabinet meeting.

Following raids on government and company offices across the country, police detained seven people, including senior MPs in the ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS), top military intelligence officers Jana Nagyova, the PM's chief of staff and long-term personal assistant.

They also seized the equivalent of nearly €6 million in cash and several kilos of gold.
The article suggests that the best of the story is yet to come though, for the time being, Mr Necas himself is seen as "weak and wobbly" but fundamentally honest. Nevertheless, he seems to be in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and his Chief of Staff (and alleged lover) is being accused of using military intelligence to spy on his wife (in order to protect her .... see above). President Zeman, in the meantime, has been attending official ceremonies while being visibly drunk, so he has the odd PR problem or two. (Though his drinking habits are not exactly news, as this blog has mentioned before.)

Dariusz Kałan suggests an interesting scenario, which should excite people outside the Czech Republic though not, perhaps, inside it:
Only his [President Zeman's] predecessor, the 72-year-old Vaclav Klaus, who continues to cling to political ambitions despite his advanced age and unpopularity, might get a bump.

Since stepping down from office, he has been waiting for an opportunity to take back leadership of the ODS, the party which he founded.

The ODS rank and file might well see the Cold-War-era hero as the only person capable of restoring the group's credibility.

But for Czech people at large, this will have little meaning.
None of this would matter too much if it were not for the fact, which cannot be repeated often enough, that the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic is also a member of our real government.

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